The Post-Classical Ensemble’s conductor, Angel Gil-Ordoñez, likes to build his programs around a theme, which is how it came about that Benjamin Britten and Richard Wagner — as unlikely a pair of soulmates as you’re likely to find — ended up sharing the program at Georgetown’s Dumbarton United Methodist Church on Saturday, the sixth event in this year’s Dumbarton Concerts series.
The theme was childhood, something that everyone knows was close to Britten’s heart (see “Noah’s Flood,” “St. Nicolas,” etc., among the many works he wrote with children as centerpieces). But Wagner, he of the huge Teutonic epics? Well, there’s the “Siegfried Idyll,” one of Wagner’s most approachable and beloved works, based on the nursery song “Schlafe, Kindchen, Schlafe” and written as a gift to celebrate both the birthday of his wife, Cosima, and the birth of their son, Siegfried.
The program was more a sharing than a collaboration. The Washington National Cathedral Boy and Girl Choristers were on their own, with harpist Jacqueline Pollauf, singing Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols,” warming up on an adaptation of the “In Paradisum” from the Faure Requiem and, after intermission, singing a sweet “Good Night” chorus by Wagner admirer Anton Seidl and the “Schlafe” nursery song from the church balcony. The 13-member instrumental group took over to close the evening with a broad, passionate reading of the “Idyll.”
With Gil-Ordoñez conducting, the 22 choristers gave well-shaped, intense and incisive readings of the 11 Britten carols. Soloists from the choir did nicely, particularly the girl who sang “That Yonge Child,” but it wasn’t until the choir’s regular conductor, Michael McCarthy, took over to lead the unison nursery song that the group managed the easy, weightless delivery that is one of the glories of young choristers.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.