The Alexandria Choral Society came into town last night to sing in St. Paul's Church on K Street.
Under Douglas Major's profound musical direction, the program offered three works by vastly different masters of the idiom. Thomas Tallis' setting of the Lamentations for Holy Week was followed by the touching beauty of Herbert Howells' music for the ancient poem of Prudentius, "Take him, earth, for cherishing," and the Missa Festiva by Flor Peters.
The Tallis is music of classic restraint, perfectly molded for the famous lines of Jermiah. Howells set Helen Waddell's exquisite English translation of the Latin poem as a memorial to John F. Kennedy. It is a vaulting reminder of the very finest in English choral writing of this century, with harmonies whose aching beauties match the searing imagery of the poem.
Peeters, whose music used to be more heard in Washington two and three decades ago than it has been lately, achieved some stunning moments in his festival setting of the Mass. Long Belgium's leading liturgical composer, Peeters has a great gift for combining voices and organ. With Benjamin Dobey playing handsomely, and the admirable reponse of the chorus to Major's excellent leadership, the effect was of thrilling beauty.