> CHRISTMAS IN NEW ENGLAND [JW]: Classical Reviews- April 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Hallelujah HANDEL
Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring J S BACH
Ding Dong merrily TRAD
Glory to God HANDEL
Away in a manger ARR ROGER O’NEEL
Carol of the Bells ARR P WILHOUSKY
Gesu Bambino [T Hill sop] PIETRO YON
Go tell it on the mountain ARR RUTTER
Stille Nacht GRUBER
While shepherds watched ARR P CHRISTIANSEN
Mary had a Baby [A Segal sop] ARR W DAWSON
Panis Angelicus [G Lubarsky ten] FRANCK
Still still still ARR N LUBOFF
Festival of Carols ARR BARKER
Ave Maria [M A Cho sop] GOUNOD
Jesus loves me ARR R R BENNETT
Bakulalow [K Sharry sop] BRITTEN
This little Babe BRITTEN
In the Bleak Midwinter ARR MAC HUFF
The Twelve days of Christmas ARR R R BENNETT
We wish you a Merry Christmas ARR R R BENNETT
The Paul Madore Chorale
Chamber Orchestra/Paul Madore
Recorded Methuen Memorial Music Hall; St Anne’s Church, Salem; St Mary’s Church, Danvers, MA, USA ?1996
ZC RECORDS 7001 [72.51]
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The Paul Madore Chorale has been a force for cultural good in Massachusetts formally since 1966 and has performed a number of large-scale works over the years. It’s a pity that the small booklet picture of the Chorale is so blurred – it is in fact impossible to distinguish so much as a head – but it’s symptomatic, I’m afraid, of this honourable but dispiriting disc. In the booming acoustics of three locations we are immediately plunged into the Hallelujah Chorus here sounding for all the world as muddied, congealed and indistinct as the infamous 1926 Crystal Palace Columbia excerpts from Messiah in which Henry Wood conducted a choir of 3,000 with an illuminated baton. There is a rather heroically small band used throughout the disc – string quartet, two trumpets, two harpists and organist/pianist – and all do their best; I’m not sure if all 110 members of the Chorale are singing but it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if they were. String and trumpet co-ordination in Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is non-existent, a slight recovery is made in the next two outings before the mists descend in the appallingly twee arrangement of Away in a manger with its quotation of Stille Nacht. Gesu Bambino (O Come let us adore Him) is probably the most lugubrious performance I have ever heard. Even Bostonians are surely not that averse to adoration – or maybe it’s considered too Catholic an impulse. Further restraint bedevils Go Tell it on the Mountain despite Rutter’s nice violin descant. The nadir is surely reached with Stille Nacht. It is reverential, slow, interminable and quite horribly flat, as is regrettably much else. In Ave Maria the potentially useful voice of Mi Ae Cho is jeopardised by her singing frighteningly below the note and forcing her tone – some technical ironing out would do her good because the voice is otherwise attractive. The Chorale seems to respond rather better to the Britten and to the Richard Rodney Bennett arrangements with their scurrying violins, oom pah and genial camp.

A souvenir for admirers of the Chorale then and only that.

Jonathan Woolf

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