In performance: Cathedral Choral Society
Cathedral chorus rings in Christmas
by Cecelia Porter
How often can you hear a trumpet, horn, trombone or tuba mouthpiece played alone without the rest of the instrument? Or be engulfed by an organ with more than 10,000 individual pipes and five keyboards (one for the feet) reverberating in swirling surround-sound throughout the massive spaces of a stone cathedral?
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You had just such an opportunity on Saturday at the Washington National Cathedral, where the Cathedral Choral Society, Heritage Signature Chorale and Washington Symphonic Brass celebrated the season with a warmhearted, splendidly performed Family Concert, "The Joy of Christmas."
The program was led by J. Reilly Lewis, also an enlightening emcee, marking his 25th year as the society's music director. Stanley J. Thurston conducted the chorale. Both choral groups were joined at various times by the cathedral's organist, Scott Dettra, its carilloneur, Edward M. Nassor, playing in the 100-plus-feet-high tower, and the brass ensemble.
It was truly a hands-on occasion, when whole families -- from infants on up -- got into the act. For several carols, Lewis invited the audience to sing along with the voices and instruments, adding extra gusto to the day. Besides a zestful brass demonstration by Phil Snedecor, listeners enjoyed an enlightening description of the carillon (a keyboard instrument played by the fists controlling the cathedral bells -- but not those that swing).
Highlights of the day included a soulful version of the African American spiritual "Mary Had a Baby," sung by the chorale and soloist Natalie Carter, whose sound remained rich even in her most decorative flourishes.
-- Cecelia Porter
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