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Bach Society Chorus

The Music Box

By Bertram Baldwin

It is often gratifying to sit and watch a group of performers who are enjoying themselves, even if their playing and singing is sometimes ragged. The Bach Society Chorus, conducted by Stephen Addiss, contains few exceptional voices, and this is a particular drawback in a small ensemble, where the individual voice quality is quite apparent. But any lack of technique is almost compensated for, by the enthusiam generated when people gather primarily to have a good time singing.

During the first half of the Friday evening program in Paine Hall, this enthusism did not wholly make up for the general insensitivity of the performances. The Chorus sang first a selection of old rounds and canons, followed by short works of Fifteenth and Sixteenth century composers--Senfl, Hassler, and others less obscure. It is easy to overdo nuance in very early music, but the Chorus did not use enough. The impression was not that they were making a deliberate attempt to sing with great reserve, but rather that little careful thought had been given to the matter of dynamics. Intonation was not always precise, and contrapuntal passages were occasionally unclear.

These failings were not overcome after the intermission, but the singing was so spirited that they became less detrimental to the total effect. The final music on the program, an Epiphany Carol by Addiss and the Choral Cantata No. 150 of Bach, required the support of a small instrumental ensemble, which accounted for much of the vigor of the performances. The Bach Society Chorus is a gathering of casual singers, who in their enthusiasm are vicariously, if not always musically, entertaining.

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