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Chamber
SAKURA AND THE MUSICAL ART OF ARRANGEMENT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 12, 2023
Chamber
WEIGHTY RUSSIAN SONATAS IN MALOFEEV'S 222 GALLERY RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 12, 2023
Chamber
ARRON-PARK DUO IN CAPTIVATING OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 9, 2023
Symphony
MAGNIFIQUE MUSIQUE FRAN«AISE AT MARIN SYMPHONY
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Symphony
EXULTANT VSO PLAYING OF RAVEL BALLET IN THE EMPRESS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Other
JOYFULLY WE SING
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Symphony
FERRANDIS BRINGS FRENCH MUSIC AND CONSUMMATE SKILL TO SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Monday, February 20, 2023
Chamber
EXALTED ISSERLIS VALENTINES DAY GIFT IN STELLAR NAPA RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Chamber
A TRIO WITH BRIO AT CHAMBER MUSIC MARIN!
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Other
SUBDUED PIANISM IN RARE FORTEPIANO RECITAL IN THE RAVEN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 12, 2023
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
College of Marin / Saturday, December 17, 2022
Marin Oratorio, Paul Smith, conductor. Soloists: Sibel Demirmen, Christa Durand, Valentina Osinski, Michael Orlinsky and Martin Bell

C. Montalbo and (r) A. Gianoloa-Norris (A. Wasserman photo)

HALLELUJAH! MARIN ORATORIO IN HOLIDAY SPLENDOR CONCERT

by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, December 17, 2022

The James Dunn Theatre at the College of Marin rang with Christmas spirit Dec. 17 as the Marin Oratorio, directed by Paul Smith, performed Vivaldiís Gloria and St. SaŽnsí Oratorio de Noel, Op. 12. An audience of 260 mostly masked and vaxed attendees were also treated to an encore: the rousing Hallelujah chorus from Handelís Messiah Oratorio.

Conducting from score, Mr. Smith, whose appreciation for his musicians and singers and infectious enthusiasm always communicates to the audience, set a moderate tempo that emphasized the thrilling musical leaps of the Vivaldiís opening Gloria in excelsis Deo. In this most engaging of opening phrases, the octaves bounced like balls from floor to ceiling. The chorus of nearly 85 met the challenge of projecting through masks, and although muted, their sound was clear and strong, and the soloists and conductor were not constrained by masks. They were limited for space, however: sopranos Sibel Demirmen and Christa Durand, contralto Valentina Osinski, tenor Michael Orlinsky and baritone Martin T. Bell had no place to sit on the crowded stage, and their frequent entrances and exits were at first distracting.

The small orchestra consisted of four violins led by concertmaster Mark Jordon, two violas, one cello (the marvelous Carol Rice), a double bass, oboe, Cortez Montalboís trumpet and an organist, Cheryl Ziedrich. Harpist Aja Gianoloa-Norris joined the ensemble for the St. SaŽns. The instrumentalists were downstage of the chorus and at times in the Vivaldi, when they provided a rhythmic backbone to the singers rather than a harmonic blending, their sound was too prominent.

The Theater is audience-friendly with good sight lines and minimal reverb. Mr. Orlinsky, Mr. Bell and Ms. Durand had the most sonic projection. Ms. Demirmenís melismatic singing was especially lovely in the duet Domine Deus, Rex coelestis with the oboeist Brenda Schuman-Post. After a shaky beginning in Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Ms. Osinski (who stepped in for an ill Karen Clark) sang with her usual confidence and clarity. Mr. Orlinsky, listed as a baritone on the program, is a genuine tenor, and his solos were very beautiful in the upper range. Ms. Durandís ringing solos were another high point. The trumpet parts of the Gloria evoked the angels, and Mr. Montalboís high notes were pure, sweet, with minimal wobble, though on occasion his entries were a split-second late. Mr. Smithís Marin Oratorio chorus sang splendidly throughout, and the culminating fugue Cum Sancto Spiritu, in which the initial octaval leaps are reprised, was a stirring culmination to the concertís first half.

There was no intermission, and once the soloists had taken their bows, Mr. Smith addressed the audience to introduce the St. SaŽns Oratorio de Noel, Op. 12, praising the many virtues of the French composer, an astounding prodigy and polymath. Mr. Smith said, ďEvery note St. SaŽns wrote is good.Ē With that, he brought forth a warm and shining performance of a charming work that indeed held its own alongside the splendid Gloria.

The oratorioís lyrics are a selection of biblical passages from the Old and New Testaments, pertaining to the coming of the Messiah. The first, Prťlude (Dans le style de Sťb. Bach), bridges the nearly two-century gap between Vivaldi and St. SaŽns and demonstrates the Frenchmanís deep understanding of Baroque music. It is, as Mr. Smith asserted, wholly good writing: the chorus and orchestra blended as a harmonic ensemble, more so than in certain parts of the Gloria, where the orchestra takes a back seat. Ms. Durandís solo from John 11:27 was particularly lovely, and Mr. Orlinskyís high tenor parts carried emotional weight. Ms. Demirmen and Mr. Bellís trio with harpist Ms. Gianoloa-Norris (playing shining arpeggios) was luminous, as was the harpistís duet with organist Ziedrich.

Throughout the concert Mr. Smithís cues were direct and never indistinct. It was clear that he puts his passion into rehearsal work, and the musical result always seems about the performers and the score, never about himself. After the St. SaŽns came the surprise Hallelujah! Chorus, eliciting a murmur of delight in the audience, some of whom joined in the singing. It brought Marin Oratorioís Christmas concert to a happy conclusion.