On Sunday,January 23, 2011, Maestro Webster Alexander Rogers, Jr. conducted the Friday Morning Music Club Chorale and Orchestra in a performance of the beloved choral masterwork A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church. Rogers is in his twenty-third season with the Friday Morning Music Club Chorale. He is an accomplished conductor of both choral and orchestral literature.
There were several things that made this an exceptional afternoon of music making. Baritone soloist Sidney Outlaw, the 2010 first prize winner of the Montesserat Caballe International Singing Competition was featured on the concert as a result of being a winner in the Washington International Competition for Voice a few years back. Outlaw exuded an elegant sense of poise and sang with a solid presence throughout. A lyric baritone, the voice especially projected best in the upper register of the voice. There were times that Outlaw’s lower register was covered by the orchestra, but he still managed to emerge with commanding delivery. Soprano Lu-Hsuan Lucy Chen in her singing revealed a delightfully bright, clear soprano. In the soprano solo, Ihr habt nun Trauigkeit, the tempo seemed rushed and did not allow for more liberty in the phrasing on the part of the soloist.
Under the direction of Rogers, the chorale sang with confidence throughout, complimented by a well-balanced sound among the voices. The vocal timbre of the chorale leaned towards a bright sound, as opposed to a dark, richly rounded sound that typically marks the music of the Romantic Period. Even still, this presented an unexpected freshness to the ear of the listener.
Noticeable was the German diction, in which final consonants seemed to be lost in the musical fabric of the performance. Yet, this was made up for by the two stellar soloists, who were consistent in their delivery of the German throughout. In Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt the chorale sang angelicly towards the heavens, matched by the majestic playing of the orchestra. The fugal section of the chorus was championed superbly by the chorale. Bringing the work to a close was the sublime Selig sind die Toten.
This performance of the Friday Morning Music Chorale and Orchestra is one of many examples of the organization’s commitment to presenting quality musical performances to the community. An all volunteer organization, it is always wonderful to witness the joy exuded by performers who simply share their talents and gifts freely with others.