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Had everyone on the stage of Sanders Theater used his talents with such comprehension and conviction as alto Anne Talbot, last night's Messiah would have been clearly defined and tremendously powerful. But the performance lacked broad conception and sustain-force, not for any lack of ability which was remarkably well distributed; but rather for want of appreciation of what was being related.
In her two arias, "He shall feed his flock" and "He was despised," Miss Talbot established a contrast which should be drawn more clearly tonight. At first she was properly rejoicing, and later, intensely sorrowful. Neither her joy nor her grief were so effectively portrayed by her colleagues. Robert Gartside has sacrificed the excitement in his tenor voice for some fine control and smoothness. The former commodity is indispensable, however, in "Every valley shall be exalted," a pretty momentous prediction, after all. Few people expect to be disappointed in Paul Tibbetts; too many had reason to regret his lack of warmth last night. Katherine Griffith, the soprano, who stepped in at the last minute, overcame her handicap with credit in "I know that my redeemer liveth."
All this doesn't mean that there weren't some notable high points in last night's performance. Anyone familiar with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra in previous years must have been amazed at their competence. Enough strings have finally been found and their quality could only astound in the Pastoral Symphony. Except for some weakness still lingering in the brass, they have become a capable and well integrated group of performers.
The chorus--Glee Club and Choral Society--has never done more justice to music than in "For unto us a Child is born," "His yoke is easy," and on the word "astray" from "All we like sheep." Some of the ordered enthusiasm put into the Hallelujah might be applied to "Since by man came death."
William F. Russell, who is acting conductor of the Glee Club this fall, should not have been mentioned last. A stage-full of University musicians is an organizational challenge which few men have met victoriously. Only because Russell did so could last night's audience disregard technical difficulties and perceive some short-comings in interpretation.
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