Reviews ...

James Reyes and his Polymnia create a stunning "Creation"

...full house appreciates soloists, organ and chorus

by Jackie Wattenberg

James Reyes has done it again. A superb performance of Haydn's happy and exciting "Creation" with three superb soloists and his own sensitive, experienced, intelligent response to the score's every moment.

Last Saturday evening's presentation in Melrose's First Congregational Church held barely an empty seat, evidence of the ever increasing appreciation of this local treasure.

Right at the beginning -- and the beginning of creation -- the rich and commanding bass of Thomas Jones projected the early "chaos" and God's early efforts with such an intensity and awareness of each dramatic phrase that the audience was mesmerized.

After an injection of a little chorus section, the terrific tenor of Alan Combs extended the turbulence with his equally dramatic portrayal of Uriel, describing the "despairing, cursing rage," intoned indeed with rage and perturbation in a lyric tenor of velvet-textured vitality and, as with Mr. Jones, interpreting each lively incident in his emotion-charged timbre.

In "The Third Day" came the marvelous soprano Denise Konicek as Gabriel, declaring that God said, "Let the earth bring forth fruit." Then followed the difficult colaratura aria, "With Verdure Clad," which she flitted through magmificently, fast runs like a rushing stream, her voice resonant and full throughout her wide range, and her highest tones exhiarating as coming through a brilliant sun shining on clear glass.

The organ at this modern, uniquely-shaped church is not as versatile and mellifluous as a grand pipe organ, but after early overly-sharp sounds the stops either adjusted to the chorus or were complemented by it or we became used to the sound. Terry Halco had some lively passages to pursue and as usual supported the whole choral work.

And the choral work was commendable. Conductor Reyes, with two short intermissions between sections, guided soloists, organ and chorus always with effective dynamics and tempi, and even sat at the piano on occasion to accompany the solo singers. Whether in full narrative power or in affecting softening passages, the chorus was in good form.

Haydn's "Creation" is a religious work with emphasis on a brighter side of life, of course, than Bach's Passions or Mozart's "Requiem," but there is never a dull moment. Both os the male soloists delivered animated recitatives, Thomas Jones in his ebony-dark tones which rose to enthralling high reaches of stirring power or lovely pianissimos, and Mr. Combs' burnished-copper tenor ever the anxious narrator.

Their trios with Ms. Konicek, such as "Most Beautiful Appear" and "The Heavens Are Telling," were masterful, all three audible above the chorus. In Part Three, Adam and Eve as sung by Konicek and Jones, were raprurous.

Fellow musicians and music lovers in the audience rose eagerly to proffer a standing ovation for this great work, bright with anticipation of spring soon to bring a world "with verdure clad," and bearing fine fruit. James E. Reyes brought forth a beauteous ode to spring.

Rumor has it that Conductor Reyes is also a composer. Modesty should not prevent him from sharing some of his creations with his fine chorus.

April 2, 2001

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