The Theatre Chamber Players of Kennedy Center gave a concert yesterday afternoon at the Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, with much attention centered on the world premiere of "Lumen" by Richard Felciano. The short cantata draws vocal images of the moment of death when, according to the composer, there is a "sensation of an intense and all-pervasive light," indicated through losing the singer "in the pulsating brilliance of light's spectral formation."
Beginning with staccato vocal attacks that turn to gentle growls, the writing remained earthbound if interesting, at times sounding like marbles falling on a hard glass floor. A middle section used brief texts from Dante's "Paradiso," soon returning to a cataloguing of familiar avant-garde vocal effects. Since Plotinus, the metaphor of light has been associated with all that is good and beautiful, and if this new work did not quite reach those lofty heights, the soprano for whom it was written did. Phyllis Bryn-Julson's is indeed an illuminating voice, her singing yesterday a lesson in real beauty. In the brief vocal flights of fantasy allowed her in this cantata, there were hints of ectasy and joy.
"Lumen" is scored for soprano and organ, and organist Donald S. Sutherland was no less prodigious than Bryn-Julson. The music of composers Bedford and Cage came to mind throughout, as did Steve Reich's "Four Organs" at the close.