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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hark! The angels sang at Dumbarton Concert

Dumbarton Church in Georgetown, one block off Wisconsin Avenue, is the home of Dumbarton Concerts/Photo by Patricia Leslie

For all the babies and children who have trouble going to sleep, for parents and caregivers, the ethereal 
"Good Night" by Anton Seidl (1850-1898) which the Washington National Cathedral Boy and Girl Choristers sang at the Dumbarton Concert Saturday evening is an answer to prayers for slumber.

Had a host of angels descended upon the sanctuary of the historic Dumbarton United Methodist Church to enthrall the audience with beauty and harmonies never anticipated?  I believe all in the packed hall would have agreed.

More than 100 years have passed since the composition was last performed, according to musicologist Joseph Horowitz who discovered the score while conducting research for a book.

Anton Seidl, 1895/Arnie Dupont/U.S. Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

The choristers, under the direction of Cannon Michael McCarthy, were the featured artists on the program entitled "Scenes From Childhood," presented to honor the centennial birthday of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and the bi-centennial birthday of Richard Wagner (1813-1892) whose written works for children were performed.  Mr. Seidl was a Wagner protege. 

Benjamin Britten, 1968/photo by Hans Wild/Wikimedia Commons

The evening's program began with "In Paradisum" from Requiem, Op. 48 by Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) which the choir sang from the balcony where their heavenly sounds seemed to have better effect, filling the church of stained-glass windows and lighted candles more eloquently than from the main stage of the sanctuary, their destination where they walked while singing the first of 11 movements of Mr. Britten's A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28 which only lasted 20 minutes. They sang in Middle English and Latin.

What words are there to adequately describe such music, chimes and reception?  Made more perfect by the accompaniment of the harp, played by Jacqueline Pollauf, who rewrote the piano composition of  "Good Night" for harp.

After intermission and "Good Night," the choristers presented  "Schlaf, Kindchen, Schlafe," a lullaby they sang with a lonely oboe's hymn.  It is part of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll which the PostClassical Ensemble performed as the night's last selection and the audience answered, to no one's surprise, with a standing ovation.

Wagner wrote Siegfried Idyll in 1870 for a special birthday gift for his wife, Cosima, to honor their son's birth in 1869. Several years later, Cosima was dismayed to learn her private birthday gift would remain private no more for her husband had to "go public" with it to satisfy creditors.  How would the couple ever know their anguish would become a gift for millions for more than a century? 
Fritz Luckhart (1843-1894) made this photograph of the Wagners on May 9, 1872 in Vienna/Wikimedia Commons

The PostClassical Ensemble's music director, Angel Gil-Ordonez, was the evening's conductor.  Mr. Horowitz is the ensemble's executive director.  Ensemble members are David Salness, concertmaster, Claudia Chudacoff, violin, Chris Shieh, viola; Evelyn Elsing, cello;  Ed Malaga, bass;  Beth Plunk, flute; Fatma Daglar, oboe;  David Jones and Chris Reardon, clarinets;  Erich Heckscher, bassoon;  Chandra Cervantes and Mark Hughes, horns; and Chris Gekker, trumpet.    

The 22 members of the Washington Cathedral Choristers are Elliott
Bamford, Caroline Blanton, Grace Brigham, Elizabeth Brogan, Landon Chin, Constantine Desjardins, Sophie Evans, Selin Everett, Doris Farje, Nathan Heath, Madeline Kushan, Maya Millward, Luke Mott, Nolan Musslewhite, Bronwyn Redvers-Lee, Annabel Ricks, Christian Schmidt, Lucie Shelley, Teresa Speranza, Rubii Tamen, Ben Vacher, and Logan Whittaker.

                    Good-night! And sweet be thy repose
                    Through all their shining way,
                    Till darkness goes, and bird and rose,
                    With rapture greet the day,--

From Edna Dean Proctor's poem which Mr. Seidl adopted for "Good Night"

The next and last Dumbarton Concert for the 2013-14 season is:

March 15: A quintet with the Linden String Quartet and pianist Michael Brown

Where: Historic Dumbarton Church, 3133 Dumbarton Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007

Tickets: $30 to $35

For more information: 202-965-2000

Free parking is available beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyde School, 3219 O Street on a first come, first served basis. Your ticket is necessary for the attendant.

Metro station:  Not in Georgetown

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