Reviews ...

Polymnia exalts Bach and Mozart

 ... A fond farewell to music director

by Jackie Wattenberg

There is good news and bad news about the Polymnia Choral Society's recent Spring Concert in Melrose Highland Congregational Church -- good news is that they were at their usual high-quality best.
The bad news is that their music director, James E. Reyes, pictured here with his wife Karen, will be leaving their podium after their final Pops Concert to close the season.

This is not happy news, because Reyes is a man who selects the finest in music and then performs it always with eloquence and the highest musicality. But he has other musical affiliations, and he composes as well, having recently presented a recital in Boston of his songs to poetry of E.E. Cummings. Modesty has prevented his offering his own compositions in one of Polymnia's programs, but it would be downright unfair of him not to give loyal fans here a sampling of his work before leaving, in his final concert.

A full and responsive audience were impressed with the Mozart Mass and Kyrie and Bach's Cantata as well as by the four soloists brought in for this performance. Soprano Jean Danton floated gloriously through the speedy rills of Mozart's "Alleluja," and in the final piece, Mozart's Mass in D Major (Coronation) K. 317, her voice rose pure and crystal clear as a mountain waterfall, quite alluring.

This Mass has a richness of variety and mood, and Reyes made the five sections rewardingly expressive; the chorus responded to the excitement of the Gloria and Credo with full sound and fury, all parts sharp in attacks and cutoffs. The closing "Agnus Dei" brought the four soloists to the fore for a moving "dona nobis pacem -- give us peace," a fine message for this or any season.

The chorus was especially lovely in sound in the delicate "Ave Verum" by Mozart. All parts were smoothly legato, and in one section where the altos and sopranos came in after one another their tones were indeed heavenly.

The soloists invested dramatic color into Bach's Cantata #106, "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" (God's time is always the best). Tom Jones' baritone is a voice of earth-dark richness, strong and attractive, and he uses it to stirring effect. Sterling Lambert interpreted his role here with lyric tenor quality and response to the drama's nuances, and Sharon Brown's mezzo-soprano warmth and intelligence added nicely to the solo and choral sections. Regular pianist Terry Halco provided his dependable support on both piano and organ.

The concert opened with Mozart's Kyrie in D minor, K.34 1; sopranos seemed to be a trifle hesitant at first, but rebounded swiftly to their finely-spun fullness, and the whole choir balance was very good. You can't miss with Mozart and Bach in the hands of a conductor with the sensitivity and depth of interpretation of James E. Reyes. We all wish him well in his future endeavors, but he will be missed here in Melrose.

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