MASTER CHORALE OF SOUTH FLORIDA
JO-MICHAEL SCHEIBE/ MARVIS MARTIN
POULENC/ VIVALDI/ RUTTER (11-18-07)
By Lawrence Budmen
The sounds of the holiday season pervaded Miami’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on November 18 when the Master Chorale of South Florida presented Gloria! The musical vibrations were glorious indeed!
Jo-Michael Scheibe, a great choral director and stellar artistic presence in South Florida, is concluding his tenure as the Master Chorale’s Artistic Director this season. (Scheibe becomes Director of Choral Studies at the University of Southern California next fall.) Presenting three contrasting settings of the Gloria, Scheibe again proved a superb choral-orchestral technician and inspired leader.
Francis Poulenc’s 1959 Gloria is a work of rare beauty that combines spiritual awe and joyous abandon. From Scheibe’s first downbeat, the Boca Raton Symphonia’s superb playing commanded attention. More than just supporting the choir, the ensemble’s performance telegraphed kaleidoscopic instrumental color and energy. Scheibe drew beautifully balanced, eloquent singing from the splendidly polished chorale forces. Soprano Marvis Martin offered multi-hued, richly textured, ethereal vocalism in the important solos. Her final, exquisite cry of Gloria faded into infinity to magical effect.
Turning to the Baroque era, Scheibe’s taut, vigorous conducting of Vivaldi’s Gloria was exhilarating. With Misha Vitenson as concertmaster, the orchestral tutti was essayed with brisk, lithe élan. In the superb acoustics of Trinity Cathedral, the wonderfully secure, tonally resplendent singing of the choir was balm to jaded senses. Martin’s exultantly beautiful solo on the Domine Deus, Agnus Dei was sculpted with aristocratic authority. Scheibe’s finely gauged support for the solo vocalists highlighted Vivaldi’s felicitous orchestral inspiration.
The British composer John Rutter’s 1974 setting of the Gloria recalls the rousing choral-instrumental writing of Vaughan Williams and Walton. This exhilarating score is a total delight, especially when voiced with such enthusiastic fervor and vocal control as the Master Chorale offered. The second movement Andante was a marvelously ruminative trio, beautifully sung by Martin, Rhona Hunter, and Allie Bisco. Terrific brass playing complemented this high voltage score. Rutter’s skillfully crafted work radiated joy and festive celebration – the perfect musical soundtrack to South Florida’s holiday season!