The Choral Arts Society of Washington presented an indelible season opener at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon with a powerful and poignant performance marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy, while simultaneously paying tribute to Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday.
Under the baton of the Choral Arts Society’s artistic director, Scott Tucker, the 170-strong chorus and 58-piece orchestra offered Verdi’s “Requiem” straight up, but with a modern-day twist. As the choristers sang, photos and video of Kennedy, his family and the socio-political landscape were projected above the stage. The historical footage, which was interspersed with live concert feed, worked well as an homage. But no visual accompaniment was necessary with the performers so immersed in creating music that was hauntingly tender and intense, bittersweet and reflective.
With the chorus providing solid anchor, the requiem featured an exquisite quartet of soloists: soprano Jonita Lattimore, whose expressive voice hovered in the hall like a hummingbird; mezzo-soprano Geraldine Chauvet, whose clear tone and timbre projected effortlessly; tenor Patrick O’Halloran, who sculpted beautiful lines and warm phrases; and bass Kevin Maynor, fiercely focused with a glowing voice.
The concert began with the East Coast premiere of Steven Stucky’s “Take Him, Earth,” a work written in 2012 in memory of Kennedy. Tucker led the chorus deftly through the elegiac 10-minute score, which weaves texts from Aurelius Prudentius Clemens’s “Hymn for the Burial of the Dead,” Aeschylus’s “Agamemnon” and Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
Jean is a freelance writer.