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Music Reviews : William Hall Chorale

The William Hall Chorale is one of the finest choral instruments in the Southland, but the best way to appreciate it may not be through a bits-and-pieces program of religious choruses spanning the 16th and the 20th centuries such as Hall conducted Saturday at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

The dangers were that stylistic differences would be skated over, that the dramatic and musical momentum of whole works would be lost when parts were served up independently. Hall did not entirely escape these pitfalls.

To be sure, the chorale sang with consistently fine-honed, well-nourished and rounded tone.

Highlights included the buttery, floating lines in Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium”; the hushed, penitential urgency in Byrd’s “Ne Irascaris”; the sonorous, earnest declamations in Holst’s “Turn Back O Man”; the democratic exhortations and hope in Randall Thompson’s “The Last Words of David.”

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But Hall also blurred some musical distinctions through hurried tempos and use of the full chorale (over 100 members) at all times. Disappointing were the “Kyrie” of Beethoven’s Mass in C, which was too smoothed over and rounded; and, especially, Mozart’s achingly ethereal “Laudate Dominum,” which was pushed and lacking in expansiveness. (Soprano Susan Mills was the tentative soloist.)

Steven Pilkington provided organ accompaniment that ranged from the adept to the ordinary.


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