The Bel Canto Company, a 22-voice vocal ensemble from Greensboro, N.C., performed a variety of pleasing works last night as part of the Washington Cathedral Summer Festival. Led by David Pegg, the group should be credited with solid musicianship, even if a little unevenly applied.
Brahms' Motet, Op. 29, No. 2, set to Psalms 51, fit the singers' profile nicely. The slightly heavy upper range gave the work ample dimension and texture. Phrasing was well-shaped and ensemble work moved smoothly. Likewise in Hindemith's "Six Chansons," colors were full and crisp.
Benjamin Britten's festival cantata "Rejoice in the Lamb," accompanied by organist Ivan Battle, could have conveyed the text's innocent spirit better with a more refined sound. Focus and balance were off the mark, and diction was often muffled. Dynamics, too, were a bit clumsy. Warmth of tone and more careful projection marked Samuel Barber's "Reincarnations," a three-piece work with text by James Stephens. Dynamic emphasis in the first section, "Mary Hynes," was especially effective.
Arrangements of gospel and folk songs closed the program. All were enthusiastically performed, but some had more technical finesse than others. The men singing alone gave "Laura Lee" a sweet, agile delivery that would have been appropriate elsewhere in the concert as well.