The following reviews have been excerpted from the Washington Post or other print papers.  Where possible, we have provided a direct link to the original article as published.



The Washington Post
New Dominion Chorale & Orchestra

     Taking on a work as monumental and near impossible to perform as Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B Minor is a supreme challenge. Thomas Beveridge, artistic director of the New Dominion Chorale and Orchestra, faced that assignment on Sunday at Virginia's Schlesinger Concert Hall. He controlled his vocal and instrumental forces with a sure hand even through Bach's intricate counterpoint, enabling Bach's music to go its inexorable and glorious way.

      This piece can be effectively done even with one chorister per part -- closer to the style in Bach's day. But overall Beveridge (also a notable composer) made it work even with a chorus of well over 200 singers. Entrances were firm and tempos paced to underline the emotional impact of the Latin text; some Mass sections, such as the Gloria, were impelled with the vigor of dance. And the chorus paid unfailing attention to Beveridge's every gesture.

-- Cecelia Porter
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The Washington Post
New Dominion Chorale Puts Its Stamp on 'Messiah'

     Handel's "Messiah," written for performance during Lent, is nowadays ubiquitous during the Christmas season, making it a challenge to find a new way to present it. Thomas Beveridge, artistic director of the New Dominion Chorale, came up with one -- a modification of a modification of a modification. Mozart modernized the 1741 "Messiah" for the tastes of 1789; Ebenezer Prout used Mozart's version to create a 1902 performing edition that, among other things, replaced the harpsichord with a piano; and Beveridge adapted the Mozart-Prout version for a performance Sunday at Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria.

      Since New Dominion Chorale accepts anyone who wishes to join, it is reasonable to expect it to have more enthusiasm than polish -- but not so. The 200-person chorus did swamp the chamber-size orchestra, but the singing was clear and precise.

      Beveridge favored slow, rather old-fashioned tempos, making the "Hallelujah" Chorus monumental but turning the opening Sinfonia and the "Pastoral Symphony" interlude lugubrious. His excerpting and rearrangement of "Messiah" removed Handel's dramatic cohesion, but his addition of brass and timpani parts to some choruses made them more emphatic.

      Bass soloist Jeffrey Tarr was outstanding. He looks too slight to contain such a large, resonant voice, filled with both power and clarity. Tenor Issachah Savage had power, too, but tended to rush certain words so he could emphasize others. Soprano Lisa Eden and mezzo-soprano Grace Gori seemed overmatched by the hall's acoustics and were often hard to hear, although both sang with feeling. This was not a "Messiah" for the ages, but it was one of the many for our age.

-- Mark J. Estren
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The Washington Post

     Thomas Beveridge led the New Dominion Chorale, soloists and orchestra in a resplendent performance of Robert Schumann's rarely heard two-hour oratorio "Das Paradies und die Peri" ("Paradise and the Peri") Sunday at Alexandria's Schlesinger Concert Hall. For the massive score, 300 performers participated -- five leading soloists, the Vocal Soloists of Washington, the 235-member chorale, the National Men's Chorus, a narrator and an orchestra. Beveridge translated Schumann's German into English and edited the score.

      Schumann used a German translation of an extended poem by the Irish poet Thomas Moore. Spread out over a series of imagined tableaux, the "story line" (from Persian legend) concerns the Peri -- half mortal, half fallen angel -- who, in penance for past misdeeds, undertakes a long journey in her search for Paradise. Led by Danielle Talamantes as the Peri, the soloists were excellent; the chorus sang with skill and dedicated zeal.

-- Cecelia Porter


The Georgetowner

     Virginia's New Dominion Chorale conducted by director Thomas Beveridge finished its season with an impressive performance of a rarely presented oratorio by Robert Schumann. The Chorale consists of 245 singers beautifully trained by Maestro Beveridge into a unified ensemble with excellent pitch and diction. He augmented the Chorale with the National Men's Chorus, five leading soloists, the four Vocal Soloist of Washington, a narrator and an orchestra. The performance took place in Alexandria's Schlesinger Concert Hall. In addition, some extra lighting was used to flesh out the mood of the music.

      Though Schumann's work Das Paradies und die Peri (Quest for Paradise) was composed for a German translation, Beveridge found that much of the original English poem by Irish poet Thomas Moore still fit the music, while he translated the rest into English as well as editing the musical score. All his forces produced a commanding performance but soprano Danielle Talamantes stood out as a local talent to watch as she goes to Paris as one of the finalists in Operalia, a worldwide operatic competition founded by Placido Domingo.

-- Vera Tilson


The Washington Post
Verdi's Requiem Brought Vividly to Life

     The most operatic Requiem in the repertoire is, not exactly surprisingly, Verdi's. The New Dominion Chorale, with a 50-piece orchestra and an unusually well-matched quartet of soloists, presented this Requiem in all its splendor and excess on Sunday at Schlesinger Concert Hall of Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria.

      First performed in 1874, three years after "Aida," Verdi's Requiem sometimes borrows: Its "Tuba Mirum" trumpet fanfares are almost direct quotations from Berlioz's "Grande Messe des Morts." It sometimes pays homage to the past: "Sanctus" and "Libera Me" contain academically correct fugues, their themes inversions of each other. And it is sometimes pure Verdi: The dynamic range is huge, and the recurring "Dies Irae," with pounding bass drum, is hyper-dramatic. Thomas Beveridge conducted the work with both grandeur and attention to detail. The New Dominion Chorale, well over 200 strong, sang not only with power, but with delicacy and grace.

      The vibrant-voiced soloists, individually and together, were excellent. Carmella Jones's rich mezzo-soprano was especially affecting at the start of the "Lacrymosa." Tenor Benjamin Warschawski was particularly heartfelt in the "Ingemisco." Baritone John Cheek delivered "Mors Stupebit" with intensity. Best of all was soprano Sharon Christman, her lovely voice penetrating the massed forces, providing ethereal beauty in the "Offertorio" and emotional intensity in "Libera Me."

      Verdi, an agnostic, structured his Requiem for maximum musical impact and flow, thus creating (for example) a "Sanctus" so lighthearted as to be almost flippant. This Requiem may not be liturgically exact, but under Beveridge's direction, it was undeniably cathartic.

-- Mark J. Estren
Complete Article


The Washington Post
Performing Arts

     The New Dominion Chorale is hardly an elitist organization; it does not hold auditions but accepts anyone who wishes to sing. But there was an air of elitism about its "Opera Fest" program Sunday in the Schlesinger Auditorium of Northern Virginia Community College. The program's four soloists were regional finalists of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, young singers on a fast track to stardom. The program was made up largely of operatic top-40 material, solo and choral, and this crowd-pleasing mix of singers and program attracted a near-capacity audience.

      The group opened with three choruses from Mozart's "Idomeneo" and also sang choruses from "Cavalleria Rusticana," "Prince Igor" (the Polovetsian Dances), "La Traviata," "Treemonisha" and "Die Fledermaus." Its most moving selection was "Va, pensiero," from Verdi's "Nabucco." Conductor Thomas Beveridge introduced this selection by explaining how this music helped inspire the Risorgimento movement for Italy's unification and describing the thousands of mourners who spontaneously sang it at Verdi's funeral procession.

      The chorus's recruitment policies have resulted in an unbalanced ratio, with female singers outnumbering males by nearly 2 to 1, but the tone was smoothly balanced and blended. The soloists were all excellent, notably tenor Jose Sacin, who found the pathos in Lensky's aria from "Eugene Onegin" and the exuberance in the Brindisi from "La Traviata." In this he was joined by soprano Amanda Squitieri, who also brought down the house with the "Laughing Song" from "Die Fledermaus."

      From the same opera, mezzo-soprano Leslie Mutchler gave a spectacular performance of Orlovsky's "Chacun a son gout" aria. She matched wits deftly with baritone Nemeh Azzam in "Dunque io son" from "The Barber of Seville." Earlier, he had brought the right swagger to the "Toreador Song" from "Carmen."

-- Joseph McLellan
Complete Article


The Washington Post
Performing Arts

     The timing could hardly have been better for the New Dominion Chorale when it performed "Spring" from Haydn's "The Seasons" Sunday afternoon at Northern Virginia Community College's Schlesinger Hall. All outdoors seemed to echo the opening line, "Behold, the blustery winter flies," with warm breezes, cherry blossoms in bloom and long lines of tourist cars blocking roads.

      Sharing the program with Haydn's salute to the season was Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 2, "Song of Praise," not quite a problem-free work but one that gave a good workout to the large amateur chorus, Artistic Director Thomas Beveridge, and the 39-piece orchestra. This symphony starts out as a purely instrumental work, with three movements for the orchestra alone; then, in its last movement, it becomes a cantata using biblical texts except for one section, a chorale on "Now thank we all our God," with words by Martin Luther.

      This chorale is musically the simplest and the strongest movement in the lengthy cantata. Bach used to end his cantatas with this kind of chorale, rightly because after such music has been heard there is not much that can be added. Mendelssohn chose to add two movements, not bad in themselves but anticlimactic in this work. In general, the work suffered (lightly, not fatally) from longueurs; it would have been more effective if it were 10 minutes shorter. A problem with Mendelssohn's music (though some people love it) is that it contains too much sunshine and not enough shadow. Tenor Daniel Snyder (the busiest and best of the four soloists) put some badly needed drama into the music with the aria "The sorrows of death." Of the other soloists, baritone James Shaffran handled arias and recitatives well, soprano Rebecca Littig sang some lovely top notes with fuzzy diction, and soprano Elizabeth Kluegel was excellent in a few numbers.

-- Joseph McLellan


The Washington Post
An Old-School 'Messiah'

     The New Dominion Chorale is one of the most remarkable choruses in the chorus-rich Washington region. It may be the largest (at least it is very large), but it is certainly as inclusive as any; it accepts all applicants without requiring auditions.

      Its performance of Handel's "Messiah" Sunday at Northern Virginia Community College was a return to the old days, before musicology butted in, when "Messiah" choruses tended to be enormous. The text was trimmed to two hours, with emphasis on the Christmas segments.

      The orchestra had the chamber music size preferred by musicologists -- probably not for musicological reasons; choral singers are free, but orchestral players cost money. A situation like that, with hundreds of singers and a chamber orchestra, raises the issue of balance, but under the direction of conductor Thomas Beveridge the balance between instruments and voices was nearly perfect. There were a few moments when the voices covered the orchestra -- on the words "wonderful counselor," for example, when "Messiah" orchestras are always drowned out -- but most of the time the singers and players were both perfectly audible.

       The other perennial problem associated with large choruses is diction, but in this performance virtually every syllable was perfectly shaped and totally clear. This can result only from a lot of hard work, and the results were worth it. One advantage of a large chorus was abundantly evident: depth and richness of tone. Also present and carefully controlled was a wide dynamic range.

      Four soloists all performed admirably: soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot, mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Stewart, tenor Robert Baker and baritone James Shaffran.

-- Joseph McLellan


The Washington Post
Yizkor Requiem

     "...The text is an elevating fusion of the Hebrew "Yizkor" ("He remembers") -- the memorial service for Yom Kippur and other Jewish observances -- with the Christian Requiem Mass. In a symbolic merging of the two memorial rites, Beveridge juxtaposes a Hebrew text with a Latin (or sometimes English) one, sung either in alternation or simultaneously. But rather than an exact re-creation of the two services, Beveridge omits, for example, Christian references to the Day of Judgment -- and inserts the Lord's Prayer, evolved from the Hebrew kaddish. Other parallels between the two services abound in Beveridge's piece.

      In its performance at Alexandria's Schlesinger Concert Hall, the chorale's confident, involved account matched the kind of dramatic energy Handel assigned to his oratorio choruses. Cantor and tenor Benjamin Warschawski intoned the Hebrew with magnitude and solemnity, Sharon Christman's soprano paired sonority with carrying power, and Delores Ziegler's mezzo had a radiant clarity.

      Schubert's mini-oratorio on an Old Testament theme, "Miriam's Victory Song," aptly prefaced the "Yizkor." The music's uncanny archaic flavor owed much to Handel and an even earlier Catholic baroque legacy. Here Christman had a resilient clarity; chorus and orchestra also contributed to the intriguing performance. "

-- Cecelia Porter


The Washington Post
Elijah

     "...The three-hour oratorio demands a high level of vocal stamina, technique and drama from its performers...Proving it could surmount such a challenge, the New Dominion Chorale closed its 13th season with an admirable performance of Elijah..."

     " Though it doesn't require sets, costumes or choreography, Mendelssohn's "Elijah" bears all the other hallmarks of an opera. The three-hour oratorio demands a high level of vocal stamina, technique and drama from its performers -- a daunting task even for professionals. Proving it could surmount such a challenge, the New Dominion Chorale closed its 13th season with an admirable performance of "Elijah" at Northern Virginia Community College's Schlesinger Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon.

      All the performers deserve a big pat on the back, but the first must go to Artistic Director Thomas Beveridge, who kept the 250 choristers, the 40-member orchestra, the Palestrina Choir octet and seven soloists so seamlessly together, even when the octet sang from the balcony. Many times Beveridge simply let the music speak for itself. But when he broke away from beating the tempo to convey artistic ideas, his choristers responded immediately, creating energetic swells in "Behold, God the Lord passed by" and singing with lyrical luster in "He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps." One wished he'd done that more often.

      With an easy command of his bass-baritone, John Cheek was a rather good-natured Elijah, sometimes sweet, sometimes invective. His voice, tinged with a brassy edge during darker moments, retained its strength throughout. He sang an especially poignant "It is enough, now take away my life."

      Also turning in impressive performances: soprano Jennifer Jellings (widow, angel); mezzo-soprano Daria Gerwig (angel); tenor Daniel Snyder (Obadiah); the Palestrina's soprano Joellen Brassfield (Youth); tenor Harv Wileman (King Ahab); and mezzo-soprano Dorothey Bodner (Queen Jezebel)."

-- Grace Jean

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