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St. George's Choir in Alexandria

By Stephen Brookes
The Washington Post • October 24, 2007

One of the perks of being the queen of England is that there's plenty of music around -- you even have choirs on tap in your personal chapels. The downside, of course, is that you're obliged to listen to a lot of English music, which -- at least since Henry Purcell laid down his pen in 1695 -- has enjoyed about the same global admiration as English cuisine. Alexandria got a taste of both Monday night, when the superb Choir of St. George's Chapel (based at the queen's own Windsor Castle) delivered an hour of hymns, motets and religious anthems at Christ Episcopal Church. As expected, the boys sang gloriously -- and (also as expected) the music was stodgy enough for a queen.

William Byrd
There were a few gems in the mix: William Byrd's "O Lord, Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, Our Queen" is a stunning motet, done in a rather strict Protestant style but radiant with feeling, and Josef Rheinberger's "Abendlied" was one of the loveliest things you could ever hope to hear. Brahms made a quick, engaging appearance, as did Felix Mendelssohn, but the rest of the program was overwhelmingly English, late 19th-century and rather humdrum, with no fewer than three knighted (but relatively obscure) composers and a handful of lesser lights.

Whatever the merits of the music, the singing was beautifully controlled and a joy to hear. It was best at its softest; Christ Episcopal Church is a compact place with unforgiving acoustics, and it's hard to find much sweetness in the sound when your fillings are rattling, as they often were on Monday. The atmosphere may be better tonight, when the choir performs at 7:30 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Rock Creek Parish; free admission). There's a final concert Thursday at the National Gallery of Art, but blink and you'll miss it -- it starts at 3 and ends at 3:15.

Posted on Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 09:11AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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