The Thomas Circle Singers' Christmas program Saturday night at St. Paul's Lutheran Church balanced traditional carols with more unusual fare: the Christmas Cantata of contemporary British composer Geoffrey Bush, and Gerald Finzi's "In Terra Pax," written in 1956. Both are pleasant, quietly affirmative works intelligently crafted from fragrant, Christmas-goose scoring and sweetbrier harmonies.
The soloist in the cantata was soprano Marilyn Moore Brown, whose lower register is purringly sensual, though her voice becomes more tremulous and less flexible as it moves up. In the Finzi, Brown was joined by Byron Jones, whose light, unforced baritone placed nicely against the chorus. The small orchestra, directed by James Kreger and strung out horizontally because of cramped space, held firm intonation and somehow managed a unified, attractive accompaniment. Kreger had the chorus on pitch, well focused, fluent and singing expressively. Textual articulation--diction--was clear but without the clipped incision that cuts text away from the musical line.
Brief motets by Palestrina and Tomas Luis de Victoria had requisite purity and just enough warmth to humanize them. The Robert Shaw-Alice Parker carol arrangements remain as fresh as they were 40 years ago. It was a pleasure to hear them so vibrantly revisited.