ALBANY – Albert Zeppieri was an ardent music lover and sang in many of the area’s choruses. So before he died last March, he made sure his estate included funds to have a musical memorial presented at Westminster Presbyterian Church where he’d been a choir member for 25 years.
On Sunday afternoon that memorial occurred. A combined chorus of 30 singers from Albany Pro Musica and the Professional Choir of Congregation Beth Emeth, soprano Gene Maria Callahan, mezzo-soprano Ann Marie Adamick, tenor Timothy Reno, bass Siddharth Dubey, organist Al Fedak, and a 20-member chamber orchestra all under conductor Susan Fedak performed Haydn’s “Mass in Time of War” (1796) — a piece that Zeppieri had not only sung in but requested for this tribute.
Zeppieri, a longtime Amsterdam resident, was an associate professor in the humanties department at SUNY Cobleskill and a former teacher in Amsterdam schools.
Before the concert began, several of his nieces told some funny stories about him and how grateful they were to him for passing on his love of classical music. Then, the seven-member Helderberg Madrigal Singers sang Orlando di Lasso’s tranquil motet “Justorum animae” from the balcony. The a cappella pure tones wafted sweetly over the large crowd in subtle interweaving lines that sounded very Elizabethan.
Robert La Rocca played a “Prelude in A minor” on Zeppieri’s Yamaha concert grand piano, which he had bequeathed to the church. La Rocca wrote the short work, which he’d often played for Zeppieri. It began simply with a lovely sad melody supported by undulating harmonies before it became more agitated with splashes of scales to then end as it began.
The Haydn work was very interesting. Besides using the voices in semi-instrumental ways, he had the chorus sharing lines with one or another soloist or having one soloist share a few words of a line with another soloist. Dynamic levels went in and out; occasionally, the bass line would make a short scalar descent with accompanying harmonic changes — a fresh and ear-catching sound. Throughout, there was wonderful lyricism and the instrumental parts were fetching. The piece was very beautiful.
Fedak set vibrant tempos and kept balances fairly even. Diction was more often muddled, but the Latin text was provided. The orchestra was strong. Callahan, who had the largest part, struggled with the range. Dubey had rich tones and was resolute. Reno and Adamick had only bits and pieces of solos. Overall the quartet sounded mellow as did the chorus, which always sang with great enthusiasm.