Carolina Baroque review
By Ann Listokin
For The Salisbury Post
Once again, on Oct. 10, music lovers were treated to an outstanding concert by the Carolina Baroque, under the innovative and ardent leadership of Dale Higbee. Presented were five cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach, that towering genius of Western music.
Because of the rarity of such a program, a prominent music critic from Washington, D.C., commented to me: “If I were down there, I’d come running.”
The 10 seasoned performers gave us a stunning evening of music. Higbee’s sweet clear recorders rang through deft trills, ornaments, and expressive melodies. John Pruett, Greg Pannel, and Marian Wilson on the baroque violins and violas were lively and engaging, enhanced by the firm warm tones of Anna Sellitti’s cello. The instrumentalists were especially charming on the ends of arias, very ably guided by James Bates, conductor, appearing for the first time with the Carolina Baroque. Susan Bates excelled on the two Chorale Preludes from Organ: “Come, God Creator” being rousing and brilliant; “Come now, Savior” being gentle and introspective. The “Chorus” was the four SATB voices; a practice which some musicologists say was the custom in Bach’s day.
Then again, some disagree. Since the argument has gone on for a mere 23 years, it may need more time to settle.
The four voices were a remarkably talented group. Teresa Radomski’s triumphant soprano floated through “Prepare the path” like an angelic messenger. Lee Morgan’s dramatic lush alto was hair-raising in “Where is your Jesus going?” overlaid with the peaceful climbing scales of the bass, Doug Crawley. And a true bass he was, deep and dark, with a bright ring.
His aria “It is accomplished,” part of Christ’s seven last words, was especially affecting, enhanced by little two-note recorder sighs, almost like teardrops.
Outstanding tenor Richard Heard sang with vibrant intensity. His fervent “My soul waits for the Lord” captured the heart. His next aria “My all-in-all, My Eternal Good,” was suffused with jubilation and the glowing ring of the gifted Heard’s voice.
While in Leipzig, Bach composed one cantata a week for several years. Although the church had a good choral library, his ambition was to compose weekly cantatas for the yearly church cycles. So, besides his 15-hour-a-day duties required by his job as cantor, he composed, copied (no Kinko’s then) and rehearsed the cantatas each week, two of which were on the program. Apparently, painting himself into a musical corner stimulated and sparked his remarkable genius.
All this, and there’s more. The chapel of St. John’s Lutheran church is uniquely suited to Baroque music-acoustincally and visually perfect with comfortable seating.
This chapel space and Dale Higbee’s Carolina Baroque are truly a gem in the crown of attractions Salisbury has to offer.
Ann Listokin is a member of the music faculty at Wake Forest University.