Under the leadership of William J. Weisser, the Capital Area Chorale, established in 1985, has explored a great deal of music in diverse styles. Although the group has ventured into mainstream repertory and over the years has performed many major works, it has tended to focus on what observers might characterize as lighter fare. As a result, the Chorale's May 2 concert, presented before a small but enthusiastic audience in the sanctuary of St. Michael's Episcopal Church, represented something of a departure from its norm. The program was titled "An Evening with Haydn and Mozart," and the lineup included several distinguished works by both masters.
Organist David Witt got things underway with an attractive selection from a series of short pieces Haydn composed for mechanical or "flute" clocks. The performer, a 25-year veteran of Edenton Street United Methodist Church (where Weisser is Minister of Music, and where the Chorale rehearses), performed six short numbers, presumably from H.XIX, giving them gentle interpretations appropriate to their character. The authenticity of some of these scores is doubtful, and the notes in the handsome twelve-page program didn't address them specifically, but they are nonetheless charming.
Three short choral works by Mozart received readings that were in some respects comparably subdued. "Adoramus te, Christe," K.327, is an a cappella composition that is not as well known as the others pieces given on this occasion. It was lovingly sung by the 32 choristers, whose diction was crisp and whose intonation was pure. Soprano Judith Bruno soloed in "Laudate Dominim," No. 5 of Vesperae Solennes de Confessore , K.339. The popular local artist can always be counted on to deliver heart-felt and engaging performances, and this was no exception. The choral support was excellent, and Witt's accompaniments never masked the singers. "Ave Verum Corpus," K.618, is among Mozart's greatest short choral pieces. It was sung somewhat deliberately but with exceptional reverence.
The main event was a dynamic, often dramatic reading of Haydn's Mass No. 11, in D, H:XXII:11, generally called the "Lord Nelson" Mass, although other titles, including "Imperial" and "Coronation," have been applied to it, over the years. As the (uncredited) program notes reminded attendees, Haydn himself called it "Missa in Angustiis" (translated variously as "Mass in Fear" or "Mass for Stress"); the composer's title was perhaps meant to link the D Major Mass to its immediate predecessor, the "Mass in Time of War," and it surely reflects then-ongoing political uncertainty.
The Capital Area Chorale engaged an outstanding quartet of solo artists for this important performance, headed by Bruno and including as well alto Christine Conley, vocal music director at Broughton High School, tenor Jason Morgan, now a New Yorker but with ties to Raleigh (he is a former member of the Raleigh Boychoir, and his mother sings with the CAC), and bass Bill Williams, currently Director of Music at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church. Haydn wrote solo passages for each voice type, so all the guests had their moments in the sun. The main chorus had plenty to do, too, and did it altogether admirably. Balance and blend were excellent throughout, and the choir's diction, unclouded by the venue's fine acoustics, remained exceptional. The result was a performance that brought the score to glowing life.
The CAC's stick-to-it-ive-ness is commendable, as is Weisser's leadership. This program, given away from the ensemble's customary home, demonstrates that, at the 18-year mark, the Chorale continues to grow in artistic terms. For more information, visit http://www.cachorale.org/ [inactive 12/04].
Incidentally, it has come to CVNC 's attention that Weisser is now an adjunct faculty member at NCSU, where he directs the University Singers.