Composer Russell Woollen led the Alexandria Choral Society and the Arlington Unitarian Choir Sunday in a second performance of his "Alexandria Suite," a musical setting for eight poems by Virginia poet Jean Elliot commissioned by the Alexandria Choral Society last year.
The combined choruses, joined by a small orchestra, approached the music with the right mix of solemnity and irreverence. Beginning with a contemplative movement, titled "Lines in Christ Church Graveyard," the musicians created a somber atmosphere with hints of dissonance.
Throughout his suite, Woollen has illustrated the verse with rich, colorful orchestration. Playful brilliance marked "Assault of Roses," the ironic call to arms for a city under a floral siege. Such raucous treatment was echoed in the percussive journey through the "Fruit Store" at harvest time. The suite closes with a simple return to the somber setting of a graveyard. Such a fine musical chronicle of Alexandria, first performed in June, should have future performances..
Woollen also presented the premiere of a short orchestral work by one of his pupils, Lee Yezek, a student at W.T. Woodson High School. "The Milevsko Cathedral" showed the composer's sensitivity to instrumental balance, deftly pairing instruments to develop the main themes.
Bach's Cantata 140 opened the concert, held at the Unitarian Church, with Alexandria Choral Society music director Kerry Krebill leading the musicians. Bass Woodward Waesche and soprano Martha Randall stood out in their duets, blending their voices in the finely wrought filigree that marks great performances of baroque music.
Upcoming music events include the Fairfax Symphony at 8 p.m. Saturday at Fairfax High School, and the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony at 3 p.m. Sunday at Fairfax High School.