The Washington Post

Chorus pairs works of reflection and reconcilia­tion

- BY PATRICK D. MCCOY style@washpost.com The Washington Chorus’s 20192020 season, just announced, will include the Mozart Requiem and a festival of female composers.

Music can be “timely” or “timeless,” but you don’t always find both ideas in a single program. On Sunday afternoon at National Presbyteri­an Church, the Washington Chorus did just that, juxtaposin­g James MacMillan’s provocativ­e “Cantos Sagrados” with the more traditiona­l Requiem of Maurice Duruflé.

MacMillan’s work paints a narrative of oppression from the perspectiv­e of the Latin American community, but it can easily be extended to race relations across many communitie­s of color. “Identity,” the first movement, introduces a phone call no mother wants to get: The organ roared as the chorus sang with fervor, “What did you say — they found another one?” Conductor Christophe­r Bell’s marked beat underlined the emotional weight of the subject.

In the second movement, “Virgin of Guadalupe,” sopranos sang pleadingly, cushioned by the rest of the chorus, the probing question “If we pray to the same Virgin Mother, why are we murdered and reviled?” while the resonant male voices interjecte­d the traditiona­l “Salve Regina.” The chorus sang vigorously in the final movement, “Sun Stone,” while the organ swelled with it, conveying the depth of persecutio­n before diminishin­g to a hushed “Forgive them, compatriot.”

The requiem offered a more familiar and perhaps safer expression of mourning. Long phrases sung by the men were layered with the lush sonorities of the women’s voices. Bell chose a brisk tempo for the opening “Kyrie,” thereby sacrificin­g an optimal expansiven­ess of sound. In the “Libera me,” Kerry Wilkerson showed a warm baritone that was well poised in the cavernous space. Mezzo-soprano Katherine Pracht shone in the “Pie Jesu,” her voice’s burned hues complement­ed by cellist Katlyn DeGraw. Organist Todd Fickley’s rich accompanim­ent was an integral part of the performanc­e.

“In Paradisum,” the concluding, reflective movement, brought the audience to a place of reconcilia­tion after the pain of the opening work.

 ?? SHANNON FINNEY ?? Christophe­r Bell in 2017. He led the Washington Chorus as it presented James MacMillan’s “Cantos Sagrados” and Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem in its season closer Sunday at National Presbyteri­an.
SHANNON FINNEY Christophe­r Bell in 2017. He led the Washington Chorus as it presented James MacMillan’s “Cantos Sagrados” and Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem in its season closer Sunday at National Presbyteri­an.

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