Evensong for J. Reilly Lewis

J. Reilly Lewis, a longtime fixture in Washington music circles, reached his 60th birthday Wednesday, and to celebrate the occasion Washington National Cathedral held a choral Evensong in his honor. Lewis is kicking off his 20th and 27th seasons as music director of the Cathedral Choral Society and the Washington Bach Consort, respectively.

The Evensong, held in the cathedral's Great Choir, was a fitting return to Lewis's musical roots. Members of the Washington Bach Consort composed the choir, led by Michael McCarthy and Gisele Becker. There were no surprises from this group of vocalists, known for vibrant musicality, impeccable tuning and sonorous balance. The cathedral's acoustics enhanced the iridescent quality of the singers' voices, especially pleasing during the introit, "Beati quorum via," and a passage from Psalm 119.

Organist Erik Wm. Suter contributed an orchestral accompaniment to the service, sometimes with chest-reverberating power but more often with colorful, sensitive textures.

Together organ and choir blended their timbres, supporting an angelic soprano solo during the Magnificat and resonating with gentle supplication during the Nunc Dimittis.

Midway through the service, Bishop John Bryson Chane delivered a sermon honoring Lewis, who probably blushed numerous times before it was through. As someone who has shared so much music with the community, Lewis is likely to blush many more times as Washingtonians celebrate his special year.

-- Grace Jean

Hot Cross

Hard-core punk approaches its unofficial 25th birthday this year, but you won't see its legacy celebrated in boxed sets and reunion tours. You'll see it in the underground, where bands are still running their own record labels (as Minor Threat did), getting in the van (like Black Flag) and playing punk rock at ridiculous speeds (which Bad Brains excelled at). Hard-core is still alive in 2004 -- but is it well?

According to Hot Cross, it's certainly more polite. The New York area quintet brought its well-mannered sentiments and well-manicured riffs Wednesday to Warehouse Next Door for a succinct 30-minute set.

Composed of veterans of the late-'90s screamo scene, Hot Cross favored focus over catharsis. Bassist Matt Smith and drummer Greg Drudy stiffly guided the band through an unrelenting sequence of tempo changes, which fell between pretty fast and really, really fast.

Considering Drudy's rigidity, it's no surprise to learn that he was the original drummer for uptight critical fave Interpol. Guitarists Casey Boland and Josh Jakubowski were far more manic, often linking up for some metal-inspired guitar runs and flailing dangerously close to the edge of the stage. Clean-cut singer Billy Werner chose to eschew the stage altogether, screaming alongside the audience on the floor. "Apologies if I stepped on your feet or spit on you," he said to the crowd. "It wasn't intentional."

Hot Cross might have kept its hard-core clean, but it seemed downright clinical after the oppressive doom-and-gloom of opening act Breather Resist, whose brutal sound inspired a mosh-pit version of the playground game Red Rover. Proof that at 25, hard-core still knows how to have fun.

-- Chris Richards

Andanza

Regional modern dance has not enjoyed the steady march of regional ballet. But judging from Puerto Rican company Andanza's Kennedy Center appearance Wednesday, modern has a foothold in San Juan. The company, directed by Lolita Villanua, has balletic undertones but generates contemporary movement with a fresh look.

Three of the evening's pieces were Villanua's -- all a bit gimmicky, but not mere gimmicks. In "Lienzos," dancers wearing hooded, brightly colored unitards crept through the Terrace Theater and onto the stage, then smeared paint on plastic easels. The costuming and slinky entrances gave the impression of creatures from the underworld, but the playful hip shimmies that followed, to Philip Glass's "Metamorphosis: One," transformed the dancers into crayons come to life.

"Tras Bastidores," also by Villanua, relied on a set of red fabric that partially obscured the audience's view. Olaya Muentes, Roberto Lopez and Villanua's undulating movement, along with the rolling style of pianist and composer Luis Amed Irizarry, emphasized the work's circularity.

Metal gates and live music from salsa band La PVC helped make Villanua's "Fuimonos" a neighborhood street party. A sparse, silent opening and a midway lull depleted the work's energy, but overall "Fuimonos" was charming.

The evening also included more serious work. Assistant director Carlos Ivan Santos's "Andante Sostenuto" used swinging industrial light bulbs to create an atmosphere of existential angst. In Santos's "Adagio," set to Samuel Barber's wrenching Quartet for Strings in B Minor, each of three couples danced a duet alone, then repeated the duets in unison. The program also included Matias Santiago's "Eleuther," an insectlike solo for Lopez, and "Un Dia Tras Otro" by dancers Muentes, Vesna Lantigua and Ivelisse Negron to haunting live music, particularly the disembodied chanting of Jose Luis Abreu.

-- Clare Croft

Master choral conductor J. Reilly Lewis led an Evensong in his honor at the cathedral.