Washington Summer Sings are catching on by leaps and bounds. On Tuesday, 250 choristers crammed the sanctuary of Foggy Bottom's Western Presbyterian Church for a run-through of Verdi's taxing Requiem Mass. It was the third of five Tuesday night singalongs sponsored by the New Dominion Chorale and open to anyone who wants to vocalize. This summer features five of the world's most treasured Requiems: Masses for the dead on sacred themes set to music, holding close to ancient Christian chant or elaborating on it.
Thomas Beveridge, music director of the Chorale as well as Western Presbyterian and the National Men's Chorus, led the singers through Verdi's entire Requiem, a work of operatic dimensions with an emotional scope as terrifying as any Hitchcock flick, technical hurdles fit for Hercules and requiring the stamina for a Grand Canyon climb. Dotted with Beveridge's witty asides, the "rehearsal" focused on articulation, Verdi's broad dynamic range and other expressive matters. Divided into two choruses, the singers kept up despite occasionally straying off-course, as in the treacherous fugal finale.
The well-coordinated soloist ensemble consisted of soprano Jennifer Jellings, who made a glorious octave leap up to a lofty pianissimo B-flat; mezzo Daria Gerwig, whose voice had a far-reaching contralto vibrancy; Colin D. Eaton II, a commanding tenor; and Vladimir Ekzarkhov, a capacious bass. Pianist Dianne Shupp provided a heroic accompaniment.
-- Cecelia Porter