SAN DIEGO — Although the Atlanta Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and other American musical groups canceled their summer tours of Europe, the San Diego Master Chorale ignored the specter of terrorism and took off Monday for a 10-day singing tour of the British Isles. Saturday night at College Avenue Baptist Church, chorale music director Frank Almond and his singers performed their tour repertory for the home audience.
This highly disciplined musical ensemble should represent the city well in places such as Edinburgh and Chichester, where musical traditions extend back centuries. In the two years Almond has headed the chorale, he has fashioned an enviable, cohesive sound for this 115-voice chorus.
Responsive to his vigorous but not flamboyant direction, the chorale infused works such as Benjamin Britten's final choral dance from "Gloriana" and Aaron Copland's "Lark" with propulsive, rhythmic energy. The chorale filled the capacious and resonant church with fresh, vital sound.
Almond chose a program of 20th-Century British and American music, running the gamut of Ralph Vaughan Williams' brilliant "Festival Te Deum" to Randall Thompson's familiar choral incantation, "Alleluia," to Michael Hennagin's angular modern madrigal, "Walkin' on the Green Grass." This mix of American and British composers tended to the impressionistic side, however, with the Thompson, the three Britten choral dances and two lush songs by Frederick Delius. A little bit of pretty, pastel choral tone-painting does go a long way.