In performance: the Army Chorus with David Daniels
Army Chorus shows fine blend, and a countertenor
by Joe Banno
The U.S. Army Chorus showed off its considerable chops right at the start of Saturday night's program at Vienna Presbyterian Church. In an opening set of Shakespeare-related choruses -- a varied, accessibly tonal collection of works by Gary Fry, Julius Harrison, Alaric Jans, James McCray and Roger Quilter (with connecting texts spoken by veteran D.C. actor Michael Tolaydo) -- it was striking how well this ensemble of individually distinctive, opera- and oratorio-worthy male soloists was able to blend so seamlessly when singing in unison.
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That blend, along with razor-sharp diction and a scrupulous calibration of dynamics, is to the credit of guest conductor Duain Wolfe who, in a second half devoted to popular opera choruses and the tavern sequence from "Carmina Burana," coaxed 26 voices to sound like the chorus of a large opera house. The hushed openings and blossoming radiance of excerpts from Wagner's "Tannhauser" and Beethoven's "Fidelio" were especially memorable here.
Alongside distinguished solo work by Army Chorus members throughout the evening were solos by guest soprano Diane Atherton (silvery and winsome in the Shakespeare set) and -- in a rare countertenor rendition of Brahms's Alto Rhapsody -- opera star David Daniels. Whether the baroque-associated sound of a countertenor works for Brahms's sumptuous late-romanticism is up for debate. What was not in doubt was Daniels's thorough command of the piece -- his timbre full and pure, his registers beautifully integrated, the heft and refulgence of his sound ample enough to carry easily over Brahms's orchestration.
-- Joe Banno
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