I Cantori’s Director, Sal Ferrantelli, always proves to us that he is a fine musician with the highest standards and a loving respect for the music he performs. This is not to imply that his programming is overly academic or overly reverent, although you can be sure he would not conduct a Christmas concert wearing a floppy Santa hat and have the chorus shuffling up the aisle during the opening processional humming “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” What we heard Saturday evening at the Carmel Mission was a serious concert with some masterpieces, but also containing some works that were less serious and actually quite a lot of fun.
The major work on the program was Schubert’s Mass in G featuring soprano Katherine Edison, tenor Gerald Whitney and bass Reg Huston as soloists. Although small-scaled compared to his other masses, the simplicity of this work, accompanied by strings made a fine effect with its powerful Gloria, a very moving Sanctus and a subtle Benedictus. The Agnes Dei had a lovely quiet ending that had us holding our breath and savoring its final moments.
One of the most impressive performances of the evening was “For Unto Us a Child is Born” from Handel’s Messiah. The chorus negotiated its way through the melismatic mazes with a fine sense of rhythm and clarity. One feature of the orchestra accompanying this selection was the fine bass player (none of the string players were identified in the program) whose solid playing gave a magnificent fullness to the orchestration.
Dr. Ferrantelli composed a new work for this concert, Magnificat 2015, that impressed us with its Baroque elements, soaring melodies, dotted rhythms and lovely violin solos by Dave Dally — ending with a da capo repeat of the beginning orchestral introduction. Another new work on the program was Steven Yoo’s effective setting of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” Most of this was an a cappella setting for chorus with interjected violin solo obbligatos performed with style and charm by Dave Dally.
A work I had never heard before, O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria, made a powerful effect with its magnificent polyphony, lovely control of dynamics and beautiful hushed ending. Noel Nouvelet, a saucy and amusing setting of a traditional French carol in an arrangement by Ian Humphries provided some relief from for the more serious fare, as did Elizabeth Poston’s charming setting of “Jesus Christ The Apple Tree” and “A Babe is Born” in a rousingly energetic setting by William Mathias.
Another charming work that was especially effective was the Cantalon folksong El Cant Dels Ocels, arranged by Valerie Shields for soprano and alto voices, with accompaniment by pianist Pauline Troia.
Following the concluding, knockout performance of “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah, Dr. Ferrantelli invited the audience to a reception honoring the musicians at Crespi Hall.