Octavo Singers enliven Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’

The Octavo Singers under conductor George Moross presented a splendid Mendelssohn “Elijah” Saturday

The Octavo Singers under conductor George Moross presented a splendid Mendelssohn “Elijah” Saturday night at the First Reformed Church as part of celebrating its 75th anniversary.

It was a massive undertaking, but the 75-voice chorus, 32-piece orchestra and the five terrific soloists played out the story’s drama with compelling urgency.

Bass Keith Kibler portrayed Elijah as few others can. The miracle of his voice and his ability to roll out tones like an opulent string of lustrous pearls never cease to amaze. His pitch was dead on, his phrasing natural, his breath control effortless. Because he’d memorized much of the larger segments of text, which was sung in perfect English, Kibler, who performed from the pulpit, could devote himself to characterization. His “It is enough” aria would have stopped the show at any opera house.

All the other soloists sang several different roles and all had excellent diction. Soprano Deborah Rocco had a dark-hued voice with easy top notes. Mezzo-soprano Kara Cornell had a big voice, and an even range that projected easily. Tenor Rich Miller’s voice was light and clear with strong top notes. In his exuberance, he too often rushed the beats, which threw the orchestra off. Boy soprano Patrick Sramek as the youth sang with clear high tones that pealed.

What was best, however, was the wonderful music. All of Mendelssohn’s melodic gifts and skills as an inventive orchestrator went into the work, which lasted more than two hours. He described the text, which is the story of Elijah as written in the Bible in l Kings 16:29 through 2 Kings 2:13, with great color. Gloom, doom, earthquakes, fiery chariots, and God’s grace were some of what was depicted.

It was very dramatic, and with the text provided, it was easy to get caught up in what would happen next.

Not everything was picture perfect. There were spots that were ragged both in the orchestra and the chorus, which had several tempo and sudden dynamic changes to follow. Diction in the chorus was best at softer levels. It tended to blur at full volume.

Balances, too, favored the orchestra over the chorus even at top fervor.

But after 38 years at the helm, Moross knows how to galvanize the masses. Nothing fazed him and he kept everything moving right along.

Categories: Life and Arts

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