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Music Reviews : Roger Wagner Chorale's Christmas Program

December 15, 1987|TERRY McQUILKIN

Hear a few bars of its singing and you are immediately reminded of the sterling qualities that have long characterized the Roger Wagner Chorale. This proved true at First Baptist Church of Santa Ana on Sunday evening, where the ensemble presented the second of two Southland performances this weekend.

A clean, pure sound, unanimity of phrasing and a superb blend--the salient traits of the Wagner sound--were very much in evidence at this "Traditional Christmas Concert." The 60-voice choir brought perfect intonation and seamless continuity to the a cappella selections such as Victoria's "Ave Maria" and Palestrina's "Alma Redemptoris Mater."

Wagner, moreover, was able to exercise what appeared to be effortless control of phrasing and dynamics. The results were strikingly moving.

This choral sound worked to equal effect in more contemporary compositions, such as John Rutter's "Nativity Carol" and Paul Manz's "E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come." Maurice Goldman's arrangement of the French carol, "Now Is Born the Divine Christ Child," emerged rather vague, but John Gardner's "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day" was both clear and energetic. Vaughan Williams' "Wassail Song," too, was rendered with vigor, though the women's voices were somewhat overbalanced by the men.

The program ended with "The Christmas Story According to St. Luke," essentially Wagner's own arrangements of various carols, with narration. William Beck provided organ accompaniments.

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