The music that keeps on giving ...
Only five years old, the Boca Raton Symphonia played with grace and clear intonation, as well as a good deal of oomph when it was called for, including a thunderous timpani and clarion clear trumpet (more on that later). The Master Chorale of South Florida, in existence for seven years, draws its talent from all three of our local counties. Under Artistic Director Joshua Habermann, they exhibit a mature and refined sound with many textures and a large dynamic range.
And then there were the guest vocal soloists. These kids can sing. And I have to call them kids, because the eldest of them were only 22 -- a very cultured mezzo-soprano, J'nai Bridges, and a striking tenor, Joshua Stuart. But then there was soprano Sarah Shafer, only 20, already with the resume of a 30-something, whose bio mentions that, by the way, she has also appeared as a piano soloist with two regional orchestras. I wonder what she does with all her spare time? And bass Thomas Shivone, with a stronger voice than any 19 year old has any right to possess, who began studying voice at the age of 13. So let's see ... six years, and for how many of them has his voice changed?
With such a cast, Maestro Judd could be counted on to wring every last drop of emotional content from Handel's enduring oratorio -- the Christmas gift that just keeps on giving. A couple of years ago I wrote about listening to a recording of this work, especially the chorus For Unto Us A Child Is Born. But good live performances always beat even the best recordings. There is a texture in the air, a complex of physical vibrations, that is far more subtle and expressive than what comes out of a pair of speakers -- even my very nice set by Bose. And of course seeing the performers, and getting the full resonance of the acoustic space in which they work, add even more.
"The Trumpet Shall Sound," for example, in which the first trumpet -- in this case, Jeff Kaye -- gets to show what he can do. They had him deliver this solo from the lectern where the lay reader stands during a mass, while the aforementioned bass vocalist, front and center, had to keep up with him and project over him. Talking of textures, you could practically see the brass notes in the air; if they'd been any closer you might have been able to reach up and grab them as they went by, each one perfect and buffed to a high sheen.
The work ends with "Worthy Is The Lamb That Was Slain," and one of the most rousing Amens ever rendered outside of a gospel meeting. I asked my wife on the way home, "How did he get them to hold that last note so long?" She replied that of course they were professionals.
Of course. Don't try this at home, kids. These were professional drivers on a closed course. Just say Amen.