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CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Church of the Incarnation / Friday, March 25, 2016
St. Cecilia Choir, Cantiamo Sonoma, Incarnation Chamber Orchestra and soprano Claire Frydenlund. Carol Menke, conductor

Carol Menke (left) lauds performers after March 25 Requiem performance

RUTTER REQUIEM PERFORMANCE ENNOBLES GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT AT INCARNATION

by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 25, 2016

There is a lot to like in John Rutter’s Requiem. Composed in 1985, it’s arguably the most performed large choral work of recent times, and it was a labor of love for choral director Carol Menke’s musicians in a memorable Good Friday concert in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation.

Splendid Requiems seem perfectly suited to Incarnation, and I recall recent Duruflé and Cherubini versions, and another Rutter directed by effervescent Ms. Menke three years ago. The March 25 concert before a standing room audience was a radiant transversal of the short 45-minute score that involved Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir, a tiny orchestra and soloist soprano Claire Frydenlund.

Rutter’s warmly accessible work comprises seven movements with Latin liturgy and additional texts in English, and in this performance 24 singers with Robert Young’s organ (often in pedal point) combined with six musicians under Ms. Menke’s deft control. Timpanist John Weeks, harpist Wendy Tamis and flutist Jane Shelly played well in the opening Introit and Kyrie, though choir entrances sporadically were ragged and the ensemble initially unsteady but quickly settled down.

The somber “Out of the Deep” began with a moving lament from cellist Laura McLellan that wove in and out of the vocal fabric, and the antiphonal effects in the small sanctuary were clear. Ms. Frydenlund’s soprano had greater resonance and command when she sang at the top of her range, over long organ, cello and harp phrases.

The celebratory Sanctus was enlivened all the more by Tim Dent's’ glockenspiel playing, a contrast to the dirge-like Agnus Dei with an extended and haunting flute solo by Ms. Shelly. Psalm 23 is the text for the bucolic sixth part (“The Lord is My Shepherd”) where the rich Andante vocal lines blossomed out of an extended fabric of elegant oboe playing by Laura Reynolds.

In the finale Lux Aeterna Ms. Frydenlund, singing from the choir, returned with a chaste duo with the flute and soft timpani. Here the music became glowing and presented a transfiguring effect on the audience.

After the last notes Ms. Menke’s hands slowly returned to rest, and as she turned to acknowledge the rapt hearers, there was no response for at least ten seconds before ovation broke the silence. The conductor, Sonoma County’s busiest and best-known soprano, has developed a penchant for producing captivating requiem performances that ennoble their calendar season, composer and community.