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MUSIC AND DANCE REVIEWS : OCCIDENTAL ALUMNI

To help celebrate the centennial at Occidental College, four illustrious alumni were invited to perform Saturday evening, along with the College Chorus, Glee Club and Orchestra, at Thorne Hall. In addition, the school commissioned faculty member Richard Grayson to write a new work for the occasion.

Based on five very different poems by Robinson Jeffers (also an Occidental alumnus), “Continent’s End” looks at humanity with brooding pessimism. The work’s static rhythms and meandering phrases, alas, actually weaken the impact of Jeffers’ words. The choral lines, moreover, are limited to a chant-like utterings frequently obscured by the orchestra. The thickly contrapuntal orchestral writing, in turn, seems only remotely related to the text.

Bass Thomas Paul projected the cantata’s wide-ranged solo lines with clarity and conviction. Allen Robert Gross conducted with commanding precision.

Paul was joined by three other alumni in Beethoven’s Mass in C. Soprano Judith Beckman soared with remarkable projection; Joy Davidson delivered the mezzo line with sureness; tenor Mallory Walker offered pleasing, limpid tone but little textual clarity. Paul again sang with richness, warmth and meaning. Thomas Somerville led the combined forces in an intelligent, disciplined performance.

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The orchestra, under Gross, opened with Smetana’s “The Moldau.”


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