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CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

Cantiamo Sonoma and St. Cecilia Choir at Good Friday Duruflé Requiem (JCM Photo)

GOOD FRIDAY REQUIEM FILLS INCARNATION

by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 30, 2018

Maurice Duruflé’s short and intense Requiem has been heard in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation before, but the March 30 Good Friday performance was stripped down in the number of performers, combining Cantiamo Sonoma and the St. Cecilia Choir with musical underpinning from organist Robert Young.

Before a packed Incarnation audience Carol Menke directed the 43-minute performance that was the composer’s 1948 transcription from the original versions that use an orchestra of various sizes. Here the reduced forces favored the singers, as Mr. Young (the Incarnation staff organist) never covered the music, and at full forte volume the organ sound was often submerged. At this time the church floor could be felt to vibrate under the power of the vocal ensemble.

Arguably the North Coast’s best permanent concert choir, Cantiamo gave a dramatic and aggressive character to the nine movements, as the music is far removed from the ethereal Fauré Requiem, or the wonderful Cherubini Requiem that Ms. Menke directed in the same church several years ago. The score is based almost solely on Gregorian Chant, and was sung in Latin.

There were two short solos, one by bass baritone Thomas Hart and one by soprano Ms. Menke, and cellist Laura McLellan in the Pie Jesu movement played a lovely solo weaving in and out of Ms. Menke’s vocal line. Cantiamo’s tenor section was especially strong in the Domine Jesu Christe and Sanctus movements, with eruptions of sound that could be shrill but robustly penetrating.

Though the organ mostly is subsidiary in this work, it frequently introduced themes, resolved small dissonances and provided postludes. Highlights for me were the somber Kyrie with veiled sound and interesting organ registrations, and the Libra me section with glorious ascending chords and captivating phrasing from the sopranos.

The quietly shimmering ending of the final fading In Paradisum movement seemed to catch the audience by surprise, and elicited long applause.