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MUSIC REVIEW : Roger Wagner Chorale Still Master of Its Kind of Music

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 certainly proved true at First Baptist Church of Santa Ana on Sunday night, where the ensemble presented the second of two weekend Southland performances.

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 carols, with former KFAC announcer Carl Princi as narrator. William Beck provided organ accompaniments.

Roger Wagner will conduct the Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony and soloists to be announced in Handel's "Messiah" at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. The performance is sold out. Information: (714) 973-1322.

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