Through a combination of choral music and projected images, the Lyric Chorale presented works inspired by the Virgin Mary in the setting of St. Louis Church in Pittsford on Saturday, December 15. The Lyric Chorale was generous in its offerings during a nearly two-hour program, including various settings of "Ave Maria," as well as Bach's "Magnificat in D Major." The original programming plus the performance created a special setting for the holidays.
The first half of the program consisted of 12 choral works, including a lovely performance of "O Viridissima Virga" by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), featuring soprano soloist Elizabeth Phillips. Also nicely done was "O Maria, Diana Stella," listed in the program as a 15th century lauda.
The Bach "Magnificat" made up the second half of the program, and I must commend bass Joe Finetti for his performance of the aria "Quia fecit mihi magna" ("because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name"). Finetti's tone was clear, his articulation excellent, and his emotional delivery moving.
The Lyric Chorale, now in its 10th year, is a choral group that performs a range of music, from classical to pop and jazz. It is a 40-voice community chorus, and is the artist-in-residence at St. Louis Church. Chrisanne Yule is the director of the Lyric Chorale, and conducted Saturday night's concert. She holds her undergraduate degree in chorale music education and organ performance, a masters of music in organ performance from the University of Michigan, and a certificate in harpsichord and early music from Florida State University.
I would offer two comments originating from Yule's remarks at the start of the program, relative to the group's efforts to design a program that the audience could experience as a meditation, including, for example, not clapping in between songs. First, I might dim the lights and light some candles. This would allow the projected images to show more clearly and draw the audience's attention, and it would allow a docent to raise the lights at the end of the first half to clear the brief audience confusion as to whether it was time to clap.
Second, and more to the point of the performance, I might take an approach to singing that was more gentle and reflective of the text and the composers' intentions. The acoustics at St. Louis are live and the group and its soloists suffered no difficulty in projecting to where I was sitting very near the back. While there was glory to be proclaimed, particularly in the first, fourth, and seventh parts of the "Magnificat," high notes should not always equate with the same driving fortissimo. To allow compassion into the voice would create a harmony with the depictions by many artists of the face of the Holy Mother with her infant son, selected to be projected to the audience.