A community college isn't usually the most fertile spawning ground for animated baroque music. But on Saturday at Orange Coast College, Richard Raub united the Orange Coast Singers with an orchestra of free-lance professionals for a surprisingly invigorating evening.
The opening work heard in Robert B. Moore Theatre, Bach's Cantata No. 106--"Gottes Zeit"--proved a perfect medium for the strengths of the choir. Since Raub is not working with a powerful group, either in numbers or in vocal prowess, he has wisely placed his emphasis on unforced clarity. As a result, Bach's mourning cantata emerged simply and transparently, with a purity fostered by well-balanced sections and clean enunciation.
Only in the Chorus "Es ist der alte Bund" did the choir's lightness fall short of dramatic requirements. Here, the ability to muster a heavier dark quality would have underscored contrast between the threat of inevitable death and the innocent call to Christ.
Soloists for the cantata contributed creditably. Tenor Alvin Brightbill offered a polished and supplicating arioso, maintaining an easy, open sound in his top register. Mezzo soprano Karen Anacker kept her vibrato just this side of propriety while committing her soul to the Lord with expressive ease. And despite a bit of muddling in the meandering line of his aria, bass Martin Wright managed effective declamation and facile ornamentation.
Violinist Roger Wilkie and oboist Kimaree Titmus Gilad formed a captivating duo in the Bach's Concerto for Violin and Oboe. Quiet, sustained lines and the inherent contrasting tone qualities imparted extra expressivity to the middle movement.
While baroque energy was well-served on this occasion, Schubert's youthful Mass in G minor required greater potency and more focused tone than the Orange Coast Singers possess. Nevertheless, the ensemble attacked the work bravely.
Soprano Jennifer Smith joined Brightbill and Wright as soloist in the Mass. Though individually capable, as a trio the three were singularly unmatched, wrestling with one another during a Benedictus that should have been a happy blend.