The Bible is subject to at least as many different readings as there are religions and sects that use it. In its concert Sunday afternoon, the Arlington Metropolitan Chorus showed that choral composers also arrive at starkly different interpretations and presentations of the Scriptures.
The chorus performed John Rutter's "Requiem," written in 1985, and Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms," written 20 years earlier. Despite its more recent creation, "Requiem" seems less "modern" than Bernstein's "Psalms," and is less challenging to listener and performer alike. Rutter's "Requiem" presents an optimistic view of man's mortality, unlike other 20th century requiems, such as Edward Benjamin Britten's terrifying "War Requiem," while "Psalms" explores a more complex picture, with music of darker hues.
At the heart of each piece is the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." While Rutter employs many voices for this section, Bernstein calls for a lone boy soprano, creating a much more vulnerable, awe-inspiring passage "through the valley of the shadow of death."
The chorus gave a respectable performance of "Requiem," sung with precise diction under the leadership of music director Barry Hemphill. His fluid direction blended effectively the individual choral parts and the full chorus with the instruments. Cellist Timothy Butler stood out among the instrumentalists, his musical lamentation echoing the text in the movement titled "Out of the Deep."
The performance of "Chichester Psalms" unfortunately did not convey the drama intended in the music, suffering in part from the lack of a full orchestra and sung without the precision and authority required of the explosive work.
Also heard was a fanfare for organ performed by Samuel Baker and "Funeral March on the Death of Heroes" by Brock McElheran.
In upcoming events, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (548-0045) continues its tryouts for a new music director Sunday afternoon, with Kim Allen Kluge conducting Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony and Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. On Saturday evening, the McLean Symphony Orchestra (448-8088) will play 20th century music by Carl Nielsen and Lars-Eric Larsson, a recent work by Genevieve Davisson Fritter and Haydn's "Clock" symphony. The Prince William Symphony Orchestra (494-6691) will feature music made familiar in recent movie soundtracks in its Saturday night concert.