For the final concert of the Cathedral Choral Society's season yesterday afternoon Paul Callaway conducted a program of music for chorus and organ.
With the Washington Cathedral's glorious organ under the expert hands of Douglas Major, Callaway closed the concert with the Requiem of Maurice Durufle. Written 35 years ago, the Requiem makes a powerful impression largely by understatement. Intended for spaces like the Cathedral's, its exquisite sound was beautifully projected by the large chorus and soloists.
Samuel Sebastian Wesley was Victorian England's Mendelssohn who wrote in the style immortalized in "Elijah." His anthem "The Wilderness" combines unusual organ writing with polished choral technique, using both chorus and solo quartet. Callaway conducted it with just the right breadth, making the most of its shifts in mood.
Ned Rorem's brief but lovely setting of "Sing My Soul," was a fine buffer between Wesley and Bach's motet, "Jesu, meine Freude" that opened the afternoon. The motet is full of hazards for the most skilled chorus. The Choral Society is a larger group than ordinarily sings it and there were problems of precision, intonation and agility. At the opposite end of the music world from Durufle, this is music that does not seek cathedral spaces.