The work is a composite of styles, which range from the simplicity of chant to the massive double-choir composition that were the product of the location of choir lofts around the basilica. They also span the period of change from high Renaissance to the developing baroque movement. As a result, the ear is filled with glorious sound throughout the performance.
The acoustics of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington has differences with the Basilica of St. Mark, yet it shares the incredible acoustics that allow the sound free reign. The tempos used by William Metcalfe directing the chorus and Scott Metcalfe directing the orchestra took advantage of the acoustics of the church, and presented the music in all its splendor.
The choice they made to perform without intermission allowed the audience to experience the music in its fullest power. The music also built, thanks to their having ordered it judiciously, from strength to strength, culminating in the two motets: the glorious Ave Maria Stella, filled with grand polyphonic gestures that reflected relationship that existed between Venice and the Adriatic, and the great Venetian fleet that sailed the sea, making it a power to be reckoned with; and the joyous and dancing Lauda Jerusalem, that concluded the evening.
The soloists, all members of the Oriana Singers, handled their assignments with grace and attention to the melismatic character of their assignments. The instrumental ensemble was really perfect-in fact, when the instrumentalists had begun to play their first interpolated work, a Sonata a 4 by the Venetian composer Riccio, some members of the audience snapped to attention as they became aware especially of the recorders.
The chorus itself has never sung better-its attention to detail has always been notable, but this time they outdid themselves. The performers were as lively at the conclusion of the last psalm and as fresh vocally as they had been at the outset.
The Metcalfe family continues to share its musical vision with our community by giving us performances that aptly reflect their devotion both to the scholarliness of their undertakings as well as the emotional drive that informs performances of great music. The audience in turn reflects back to them their appreciation of all that they have done for the musical community in Vermont. And what they have accomplished is worthy of appreciation and thanks.
Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for The Eagle. His column appears weekly.