Choral Music, Orchestral Music Review Print



Haydn's Big Bang in Rocky Mount

March 13, 2004 - Rocky Mount, NC:


An outstanding presentation of the Haydn's Creation by Caron J. Daley, soprano, William McCulloch, tenor, Lewis Moore, bass, and the Tar River Chorus and Philharmonic Orchestra was presented in the sanctuary of Rocky Mount's First United Methodist Church on March 13. Alfred E. Sturgis conducted.

In a spectacular choral performance with complementary orchestral support, "Achieved is the Glorious Work," the climax of Creation , lifted the spirits of the listeners, but it was sung in a less familiar translation by Robert Shaw and Alice Parker. The alternate words, "Fulfilled at last the Glorious Work," fit the music better without breaking words such as "A-chie-ved." I missed hearing the words "In Verdure Clad," which was translated as "Now robed in cool refreshing green." Daley's soprano voice soared with the newer English words that describe fields and flowers and herbs and their healing grace, and the description of the plants presents a politically correct current alternative medicine theme, at that!

The orchestral prologue, "Representation of Chaos," listed as "Introduction," was so well done by the Tar River Philharmonic Orchestra, whose musicians responded sensitively to the conducting style of their new Principal Director, that it properly suggested disorder as the backdrop for the biblical story of creation. It soon appeared that this is no fledgling orchestra as brilliant accompaniment to the choral work ensued during passages such as "And there was LIGHT," with the proper explosion of sound from chorus and orchestra on the last word. I related that to the "big bang" theory of the creation of the universe, although that is not generally considered to be biblical. Then the story unfolds.

Haydn was inspired to write Creation in the style of what would emerge as program music, such as Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony. For instance, following the orchestral blast of a tempest, the composer simulates, in contrast, "light and flaky snow." Through the musical depiction of the animals that God created one by one, Haydn animated by suggestive themes a soaring eagle, cumbersome whales, and a lowly worm, roles depicted suggestively under Sturgis' direction.

There must have been a smile on every face in the audience in response to the performance of the glorious chorus, "The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God." I drew a smile on the program beside its first appearance. Within this section, the soloists performed as a well-matched trio, singing two glorious interludes between repetitions of the chorus' opening words. They blended beautifully in all of the trio work and complemented each other perfectly in solo performances. McCulloch and Moore joined with Daley, who was listed as the chorus' Assistant Director. (In Part III, a fourth voice, alto Patsy Gilliland, joined the trio to form a quartet.)

Sometimes Part III is omitted, but to our great pleasure the work was presented in its entirety, rather than ending with "Fulfilled at last...." Considerable fine solo work occurs in Part III, and the chorus uses a grand opportunity to rise to the occasion of the finale, "Sing to God, ye hosts unnumbered... The Lord is great; he reigns forevermore."

The evening proved well worth the drive from Raleigh. Dan Crocker, trumpet II and TRPO founder, deserves the community's appreciation for his longstanding tour of duty as volunteer. The program yearbook says, "The Tar River Orchestra and Chorus, [thus named when] founded in 1986, has grown both professionally and as an organization. Presently, six musical groups operate under its umbrella, providing opportunities for both children and adults and a varied musical repertory for our audiences." Vive l'orchestre!