BAR HARBOR — Instead of standing on tiers of bleachers in front of the chancel, the Acadia Choral formed a semi-circle in the chancel itself at this year’s spring concert at St. Saviour’s Church. This is where the original architects of the church had intended the choir to sing. The result was copacetic.
The singers could hear each other better and the acoustics were enhanced for the audience by having the music percolate and enrich on its journey through the empty space of the crossing before reaching the congregation.
Guest director Douglas A. Beck did a fine job with the music, stepping in for director Jamie Hagedorn after health issues forced her to step down mid-rehearsal.
Hagedorn’s lively manner of conducting her singers was missed, and it was good to hear she is on he mend.
The choir did her proud with its performance of Gabriel Faure’s haunting “Requiem Opus 48” and Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s rousing “Te Deum.” The music was lovely and eloquently expresses the intended theme of “Rest and Rejoicing.” The Faure was indeed the perfect antidote for anyone frazzled by all that must be done to prepare for the summer season.
From its soothing, rather melancholy beginning, to its ethereal, light-filled end, this is a kinder, gentler mass than all the gorgeous sturm und drang of a Mozart or Verdi requiem.
Instead of evoking the grief, anger and judgment attendant with death and the hope of redemption, Faure’s music took us on a gentle ride to salvation. It was a trip through an art nouveau landscape with haunting harmonies and uplifting solos from MDI’s own homegrown baritone Joshua Miller and soprano Katelyn Bray, whose “Te Deum” and “Pie Jesu,” respectively, were to die for.
The musical accompaniment, which at times reminded one of a Phillip Glass composition with its tremulous, repetitive phrases, couldn’t have been more perfect. A special nod to Kimberly Haller’s oh-so-delicate touch on the organ, Anatole Wieck’s expressive violin and Noel Chelberg’s mournful bass.
The Faure piece ended on such a sweet, delicate note that the audience waited to applaud until the conductor literally folded up his score and started to leave the podium. Perhaps it was unclear that the piece had ended without some booming grand finale, but just as likely, the hesitation was due to a reluctance to break the reverie and leave the lovely place the music had brought us to.
After intermission, the choir returned with a different attitude. It began with an opening trumpet fanfare worthy of “Masterpiece Theater,” with Hanna Edgecomb’s trumpet sounding like a full brass section. The choir, with Beck’s permission, took off the kid gloves, cast aside any restraint and, in what might be the 17th-century version of a Pharrell Williams tune, got happy. This was foot-tapping, shoulder-shimmying stuff. After all that sweetness and light, the choir was clearly having fun letting loose, and the audience was delighted to share the mood. Joseph Cough added his lilting lyric tenor to the celebratory mix.
All and all, this musical R&R break was as welcome as the unexpected break in the weather that sunny Sunday afternoon.