There was a nice touch to the opening of Catholic University's annual Kennedy Center concert last night. Honoring the inauguration of Edmund D. Pellegrino as the new president of the university, conductor Robert Ricks began the program with the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms, one of the most famous compositions written for academic honors.
Edward Elgar's lovely set of five songs called Sea Pictures followed. These are rarely heard, yet quite as appealing as songs with orchestra that come around more frequently. Marianna Busching was the soloist, using her lovely mezzo-soprano with fine taste and control.
Elgar, however, wrote his songs for a far deeper and weightier voice than Busching's. They reach down at times to low G's which are the realm of the true contralto, while much of their melody is in the lower midrange where Busching, quite properly refusing to force, was barely audible. One of the pleasures of her singing was her enunciation, which projected a good percentage of the English texts.
Ricks closed the program with Honegger's King David. The original French was spoken and sung by the university chorus, narrator Jean-Max Guieu, and soloists Regina McConnell, Shirley Thompson and Manuel Melendez.