'Summer Sings' Concert

The prospect of singing a Mass for the dead might not seem the best way to get people off the streets on a breezy summer evening. On Tuesday night, though, enthusiastic choristers singing Gabriel Faure's Requiem under Washington Chorus Music Director Robert Shafer packed Western Presbyterian Church for the second concert of the New Dominion Chorale's Washington Summer Sings series.

Faure taught Nadia Boulanger, who in turn had Shafer as a student, so it was not surprising that Shafer took the task of shaping up the assembled singers fairly seriously, using evocative similes, basic breathing directions and comical chiding when we were not quite doing Faure justice. In a short time, he managed to guide us through the most difficult passages in the Requiem and provide some musical insights and droll anecdotes besides.

Our performance did not attain any great heights of refinement, even with Dianne Shupp's sensitive piano accompaniment and the professional solo contributions of soprano Amanda Gosier and baritone Thomas Stork lending it luster. But the vast majority of the audience had sung the Requiem previously, and any stragglers could generally follow their example. (On that note, I would like to apologize to my fellow tenors for my all-too-frequent random tonal wandering.) And we made up for some lack of precision with our passion, giving the "Dies irae" section the power Shafer requested and finding the ethereal beauty of "In paradisium." In short, it was a lot of fun, promising similar good times for the next three Tuesdays, when the requiems of Verdi, Durufle and Brahms will receive the Summer Sings treatment.

-- Andrew Lindemann Malone

Michelle Malone

It wouldn't take much more than a little recording studio polish (and perhaps a hairstylist) to transform Michelle Malone into Sheryl Crow.

Malone shares with Crow's early records a gritty coarseness and personal but fun-loving songwriting style -- albeit with a little more twang and a lot less Hollywood glitz. On Tuesday at Jammin' Java, though, it was obvious from her wide grin that Malone was happy just where she was. In the middle of "Brand New Dream," she paused to talk about her troubles getting out of a bad record deal. "But it's a good thing," she said. "Experience can't be bought -- and by the way, neither can I!"

A coffee shop was the perfect venue for Malone, who seemed hopped up on caffeine, dancing behind her guitar and shaking her hips as she howled out her songs. Although she turned more mellow in the middle of her set (playing without her drummer, she actually sat down for a song or two), it was clear that she much preferred standing up and rocking out. Unfortunately, all that energy seemed a bit over-the-top for the moderate crowd, and it's likely that Malone would have delivered exactly the same performance to an empty room.

Malone made a few political statements against the current regime, both verbally, in songs such as "Flagpole," and more subtly, with a different anti-Bush sentiment displayed on each of her three guitars. But most of her material was more personal in nature, ranging from love songs ("Strength for Two") to songs about her own life ("Preacher's Daughter"), topped off with a lively cover of Dolly Parton's "9 to 5."

-- Catherine P. Lewis