Yesterday there was a surprise from Peoria, Ill. The National Gallery was filled with the sounds of the Bradley University Chorale, and the surprise came in the form of some of the most beautiful choral singing heard here in quite some time.
Not just another college choir, this group's large, lofty sound ranks them with the top-notch professional choirs. Only an occasional pastel patch in the tenor colors gave away their youth. The choral diction was precise without ever becoming vulgar, and in works ranging from the Baroque to Broadway, their taste and exuberance were a joy. The chorus mastered the dynamic variety so essential to Haydn in selections from his "Harmoniemesse," as well as the raw power required by the Gloria from Argento's opera "The Masque of Angels." The concert closed with a very peppy arrangement of "The Rhythm of Life" from Cy Coleman's "Sweet Charity."
Any errors were of repertory and not performance. Norman Dinerstein's 1977 "Frogs" was dull and unbearably cute in this Washington premiere, only hinting about what a chorus like this could do with great contemporary music like Henze's "Moralities." There is always their next visit, which must be sooner than the nine years that passed since their last National Gallery concert.