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Chamber
LEE TRIO AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE WITH A RARE ENCORE
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Symphony
SADAVA CONDUCTS ELEGANT SO CO PHIL INAUGURAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Chamber
POTENT SCRIABIN INTERPRETATIONS AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Symphony
ODYSSEY IN THE SEARCH FOR YUNCHAN AT HOLLYWOOD BOWL
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Chamber
VOM FESTIVAL'S CLOSING CONCERT A CELEBRATION FOR STRINGS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2023
Chamber
RITE OF SPRING FOR 88 KEYS AT VOM FESTIVAL
by Pamela Hick Gailey
Saturday, July 29, 2023
Choral and Vocal
A POET'S LOVE SONG CYCLE AT VOM FESTIVAL JULY 27
by Elly Lichenstein
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Other
CHARMING "BARBER" A MENDO FESTIVAL TRIUMPH
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, July 21, 2023
Recital
RARE RAVEL IN MENDO FESTIVAL'S PRESTON HALL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 20, 2023
SCHUMANN QUINTET PERFORMANCE RESCUES VOM FESTIVAL'S SECOND CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 16, 2023
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
College of Marin / Saturday, December 17, 2022
Marin Oratorio, Paul Smith, conductor. Soloists: Sibel Demirmen, Christa Durand, Valentina Osinski, Michael Orlinsky and Martin Bell

C. Montalbo and (r) A. Gianoloa-Norris (A. Wasserman photo)

HALLELUJAH! MARIN ORATORIO IN HOLIDAY SPLENDOR CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, December 17, 2022

The James Dunn Theatre at the College of Marin rang with Christmas spirit Dec. 17 as the Marin Oratorio, directed by Paul Smith, performed Vivaldiís Gloria and St. SaŽnsí Oratorio de Noel, Op. 12. An audience of 260 mostly masked and vaxed attendees were also treated to an encore: the rousing Hallelujah chorus from Handelís Messiah Oratorio.

Conducting from score, Mr. Smith, whose appreciation for his musicians and singers and infectious enthusiasm always communicates to the audience, set a moderate tempo that emphasized the thrilling musical leaps of the Vivaldiís opening Gloria in excelsis Deo. In this most engaging of opening phrases, the octaves bounced like balls from floor to ceiling. The chorus of nearly 85 met the challenge of projecting through masks, and although muted, their sound was clear and strong, and the soloists and conductor were not constrained by masks. They were limited for space, however: sopranos Sibel Demirmen and Christa Durand, contralto Valentina Osinski, tenor Michael Orlinsky and baritone Martin T. Bell had no place to sit on the crowded stage, and their frequent entrances and exits were at first distracting.

The small orchestra consisted of four violins led by concertmaster Mark Jordon, two violas, one cello (the marvelous Carol Rice), a double bass, oboe, Cortez Montalboís trumpet and an organist, Cheryl Ziedrich. Harpist Aja Gianoloa-Norris joined the ensemble for the St. SaŽns. The instrumentalists were downstage of the chorus and at times in the Vivaldi, when they provided a rhythmic backbone to the singers rather than a harmonic blending, their sound was too prominent.

The Theater is audience-friendly with good sight lines and minimal reverb. Mr. Orlinsky, Mr. Bell and Ms. Durand had the most sonic projection. Ms. Demirmenís melismatic singing was especially lovely in the duet Domine Deus, Rex coelestis with the oboeist Brenda Schuman-Post. After a shaky beginning in Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Ms. Osinski (who stepped in for an ill Karen Clark) sang with her usual confidence and clarity. Mr. Orlinsky, listed as a baritone on the program, is a genuine tenor, and his solos were very beautiful in the upper range. Ms. Durandís ringing solos were another high point. The trumpet parts of the Gloria evoked the angels, and Mr. Montalboís high notes were pure, sweet, with minimal wobble, though on occasion his entries were a split-second late. Mr. Smithís Marin Oratorio chorus sang splendidly throughout, and the culminating fugue Cum Sancto Spiritu, in which the initial octaval leaps are reprised, was a stirring culmination to the concertís first half.

There was no intermission, and once the soloists had taken their bows, Mr. Smith addressed the audience to introduce the St. SaŽns Oratorio de Noel, Op. 12, praising the many virtues of the French composer, an astounding prodigy and polymath. Mr. Smith said, ďEvery note St. SaŽns wrote is good.Ē With that, he brought forth a warm and shining performance of a charming work that indeed held its own alongside the splendid Gloria.

The oratorioís lyrics are a selection of biblical passages from the Old and New Testaments, pertaining to the coming of the Messiah. The first, Prťlude (Dans le style de Sťb. Bach), bridges the nearly two-century gap between Vivaldi and St. SaŽns and demonstrates the Frenchmanís deep understanding of Baroque music. It is, as Mr. Smith asserted, wholly good writing: the chorus and orchestra blended as a harmonic ensemble, more so than in certain parts of the Gloria, where the orchestra takes a back seat. Ms. Durandís solo from John 11:27 was particularly lovely, and Mr. Orlinskyís high tenor parts carried emotional weight. Ms. Demirmen and Mr. Bellís trio with harpist Ms. Gianoloa-Norris (playing shining arpeggios) was luminous, as was the harpistís duet with organist Ziedrich.

Throughout the concert Mr. Smithís cues were direct and never indistinct. It was clear that he puts his passion into rehearsal work, and the musical result always seems about the performers and the score, never about himself. After the St. SaŽns came the surprise Hallelujah! Chorus, eliciting a murmur of delight in the audience, some of whom joined in the singing. It brought Marin Oratorioís Christmas concert to a happy conclusion.