The Choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, has been around since 1348, but was just making its American debut Wednesday night at the Washington Cathedral. This was the first of an eight-concert tour that will take these 16 boy trebles and 12 "lay clerks" (adult male singers) across the country. Allowing for a bit of jet lag, the choir sang impressively in a demanding program spanning six centuries. The concert also included two solos by the choir's organist, Neil Kelley: a Bach toccata and the formidable Fantasia and Fugue on B-A-C-H by Liszt.
The planners of the tour have made one unfortunate tactical error. Although they supply a glossy, 132-page program book chock full of color photography and long program notes, they do not print any of the English texts. The wonderfully dotty words of Benjamin Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb" were utterly lost in the vast echoing cavern of the cathedral. The same was true of Hubert Parry's "At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners," a setting of one of John Donne's greatest sonnets. Deprived of intelligible words, the audience had to settle for beautiful choral sound, which was only half the story.