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Music Review : A Crowning Touch By The Pacific

May 11, 1987|TERRY McQUILKIN

It was certainly a festive conclusion to the season. For "A Coronation Festival" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Saturday, John Alexander, conductor of the Pacific Chorale, put together a program entirely of works written for the crowning of British sovereigns--from George II to the current monarch, and enlisted, for part of the program, the assistance of some 300 high school students.

Handel's coronation anthems, first performed in 1727 for George II, are full of Handelian ebullience and drive, and adumbrate the oratorio choruses that came later. The 140-voice chorale sang the three works with vigor and momentum, exhibiting near-perfect balances and superb ensemble.

William Walton's "Coronation Te Deum," written 2 centuries later for Elizabeth II, offered an ideal stylistic contrast. Here, too, the singers delivered an energized, vibrant sound at every dynamic level.

An anthem by Hubert Parry, written for the 1902 enthronement of Edward VII, included the student vocalists, who were positioned along the perimeter of Segerstrom Hall. The combined forces gave a dramatic reading of the rarely heard "I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me."

The major work of the evening, Elgar's "Coronation Ode," written for the same occasion, gave the four soloists (who sang briefly in one the Handel anthems) an opportunity to exhibit their sensitivity and expressiveness.

Baritone Rodney Gilfry delivered the jaunty "Britain, Ask of Thyself" clearly and heartily. Jonathan Mack brought exquisite phrasing and a smooth, suave tone to the tenor part. Jane Thorngren's soprano shone brilliantly, but on occasion illogical phrasing detracted. Jacalyn Bower delivered the mezzo-soprano lines with point and authority.

The chorale's performance of "Ode" proved first rate; the ensemble has an unusually fine blend, and while fricative releases tended to be imprecise, the texts were always delivered with clarity. For the final section, the familiar "Land of Hope and Glory," the high school students again joined in.

The combined force opened the concert with "God Save the Queen," which--with Samuel Francis Smith's words this time--also served as an encore.

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