Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tereu Tereu

Standing in certain spots in the Black Cat's Backstage space, you can get a distinct vibe of the "old" 9:30 club: a homegrown act onstage, partially obscured by a pillar, churning out jagged chords salted with interludes of earnest, yearning melody. For certain, Monday night's show at the Backstage brought back the sights and sounds (but, thankfully, not the smells) of a three-bands-for-three-bucks special at 930 F St.

Following New Jersey's Bronze Episode and D.C.'s impressive Perfect Souvenir, Fredericksburg quartet Tereu Tereu slashed through an engaging 35-minute set that evoked certain Dischord bands of yore -- not only in the appealing brevity of the performance, but also by singleness of purpose. The musicians were wholly committed to making surging post-punk chords conform to their idea of charming melody. On most every count, they succeeded.

Tereu Tereu singer-guitarist Ryan Little led the outfit through three of its most distinctive and (relatively) well-known tunes: "Furwinked!," "Compulse" and "Don't Be Sore, Farmer John." Intertwining Matt Bradshaw's deceptively breezy trumpet figures with Little's evocative vocals, they worked ebb and flow to great advantage, calling up both Ted Leo and Circus Lupus in the span of half a minute. Even more intriguing were tunes that found Bradshaw jabbing husky keyboard lines into the glittering swells, darkening the tone and sharpening the attack.

And if Tereu Tereu were a touch gawky at times, it's only because they seem very much in the process of creating themselves. That's an evolution that bears watching closely.

-- Patrick Foster

Martin Neary

They came in droves from near and afar to hear Sunday's concert in the inaugural series celebrating the new pipe organ at Bethesda's Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. And a cause for celebration it was.

Built by the firm Di Gennaro-Hart (Michael Hart is a church member), it sports two manuals (keyboards), 27 ranks (sets of pipes) and about 50 stops (which are pulled out in various combinations to sound a specific tonal color or a mixture of sonorities). Martin Neary, former organist and master of the choristers at London's Westminster Abbey, chose an eclectic mix of familiar music, demonstrating the wide scope of hues possible even with a chamber-size instrument in a modest space -- the church's newly configured sanctuary. The organist also accompanied his daughter, English soprano Nicola Neary, in arias and songs by Purcell, Handel, Edmund Rubbra, Vaughan Williams and Britten.

In Neary's hands -- and fleet footwork -- the organ made a robust statement in Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV. 565. Sonic contrasts between the manuals and the 16-foot pedal stops added up to an ebullient character cast in a crystalline texture. One of Handel's well-known organ concertos showed off chirping high flute effects; this tactic provided entertaining interludes in the composer's oratorios intended to capture his very chatty audience's attention. The mellowness of Franck's "Pastorale" was intensified against the deepest pedals. And the tonal color of the Vaughan Williams had a magical delicacy.

The organ couldn't do full justice, however, to Liszt's Prelude and Fugue on "Bach," a narrow chromatic theme based on the letters in Bach's name, which in German correlate with B-flat, A, C and B-natural. While this device lends itself easily to Liszt's trademark spurts of dissonance, the instrumental sound Sunday was rather dry, lacking the muddy resonance that Liszt had intended to amplify the reverberation of conflicting harmonies obtainable in a massive stone cathedral.

-- Cecelia Porter

Choral Arts Society

The Choral Arts Society nicely delivered its 20th annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday evening at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Words often fail to sufficiently describe such significant events as the civil rights movement and the ongoing struggle for racial equality. Here, music inserted itself into the gap between verbal description and expression, beautifully evoking the overwhelming feelings of those times.

The very image onstage of three combined choruses from different age and racial groups illustrated the basic message about freedom and equality. Choral Arts singers were mixed in with the Martin Luther King Tribute Choir, itself a gathering for choruses from across the metropolitan area. The sweet voices of the Maryland State Boychoir rounded out the array. Musically, the sound was occasionally more loud than precise, but one could still hear the uplifting words from such hymns and spirituals as "The Precious Blood of Jesus" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing," known as the black national anthem. The pulsing, religious music summoned revival-like expressions of assent from the capacity audience.

Each chorus sang on its own in the program's first half, with conductors Linda Edge Gatling and Samuel L.E. Bonds bringing out warm and rhapsodic singing from the tribute choir. Choral Arts Musical Director Norman Scribner evoked a calibrated sound from the Arts Society. The Boychoir sang with suitable lightness, and solos by Randall Murrain and David Rissling-Venit received rousing ovations.

Ben Vereen was the charismatic narrator, and civil rights leader Julian Bond, on hand to receive the Choral Arts Society's humanitarian award, delivered a spoken tribute to King.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

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