O.C. MUSIC REVIEW : Chorale Ends Season in Fine Fashion


There are many satisfying ways to end a musical season. To close its 37th concert year, the Master Chorale of Orange County, conducted by its music director, William Hall, reverted to one of the more tried and true: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

As performed Saturday night by expanded forces of the Master Chorale, the event lived up to its promise.

Joining the chorale at Segerstrom Hall in the Orange County Performing Arts Center were a contingent of Chapman University-related singers, a quartet of Chapman graduates as the vocal soloists and a first-rate symphonic body as underpinning.


Hall remains as authoritative and commanding a Beethoven conductor as one usually encounters in this concert venue.

His grasp of the core of musical thought in the evening’s two works--the first half offered the Mass in C, in a solid and faceted orchestral/choral performance--is exceptional, his sense of style and nuance thorough, his inspiration to players and singers alike compelling.

He led both works with apparently loose reins yet purposeful direction. His pacing of the Ninth Symphony demanded admiration for its single-mindedness and abundant detailing.

For once, the long opening movement seemed the perfect prelude to the emotional peaks later reached, not, as it sometimes becomes, an extended warm-up or series of orchestral etudes.

The scherzo had contrasts aplenty, and also its sense of humor--which some conductors manage to ignore. The central Adagio, under Hall’s effective but quiet ministrations, kept both its head and heart, moving from start to finish with an expansive urgency.

The Master Chorale Orchestra played splendidly throughout, with a finesse and solidity unexpected in an ensemble without a geographic name. Among others, clarinetist Frank Garcia and the entire horn section, led by James Thatcher, distinguished themselves in solo passages.


As the composer intended, the choral finale brought together all the disparate threads of the preceding, with vocal elucidation. Best of the four vocal soloists was bass Louis Lebherz, who brought sonorous vocalism, clear word-delivery and genuine text-appreciation to his assignments.

The others were Kaye DeVries, Debbie Cree Smith and Steven Dunham.

In the Mass in C, the vocal solos--again, all of the soloists were Chapman University graduates, a nod to Hall’s 30th anniversary as a member of the faculty of that school--were dominated radiantly by two accomplished performers, soprano Susan Taylor Mills and mezzo-soprano Adrien Raynier.

Here, as in the Ninth Symphony, the Master Chorale sang with surpassing gusto, usually pure tone and a bona fide professional polish, matching the quality of its instrumental counterpart.