REVIEW: Impressive – Palisades Symphony and Brentwood Palisades Chorale

There was standing room only in the Methodist Church for the concert.
Photo: RICH SCHMITT/CTN

Impressive and emotional are the adjectives that best describe the May 5 concert hosted by the Palisades Symphony and the Brentwood Palisades Chorale.
Held at Community United Methodist Church, the sanctuary was filled with so many concert-goers that additional folding chairs for seating had to be placed around the perimeter. The lobby foyer also was filled with chairs. And people were standing. One estimate was that there were more than 750 people in attendance at the 7:30 p.m. concert, that was free to the public.

The 60-piece orchestra under newly-appointed conductor Dr. Maxim Kuzin, performed Prelude to Carmen (Georges Bizet). The sound was excellent, and the feisty piece was well-received by the audience. Bizet was one of the most talented and innovative composers of the 19th century and the opera Carmen tells the story of the gypsy Carmen and her ill-fated love affair with the soldier Don José. Carmen includes some of Bizet’s most iconic melodies including Habanera and the Toreador Song.

What makes this orchestra even more exciting is that it is a community orchestra, founded in 1966 by the late Joel B. Lish, for people who want to continue to play, even though many of their “day” jobs might not be connected to music. The quality of the performance was outstanding.

Members of the orchestra were exceptional.
Photo: RICH SCHMITT/CTN

Under the direction of long-time conductor Susan Rosenstein, the Brentwood Palisades Chorale, which is an amateur choir, was simply magnificent. Bravo, for not only attempting a piece that is usually left to professional musicians, but also for a superb performance.

Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op.45, by Johannes Brahms, is a large-scale work for chorus, orchestra, a soprano solo (Kerith Spencer-Shapiro) and a baritone solo (Eric Castro). The piece was composed between 1865 and 1868 and has seven movements.

This piece is different from other traditional Requiem masses, because it uses German instead of the traditional Latin. That meant that the choir of 20 sopranos, 21 altos, 13 tenors and 9 basses, learned the German text. (This editor asked one of the chorale members how many singers spoke German before they attempted this selection – three was the answer.)

Brahms who was Protestant, took selections of his text from the Lutheran Bible. He focused his work not on the dead, but on the living, in an attempt to comfort all listeners.
The piece opens with the chorus singing “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall have comfort.”

The second movement is described as an unusual funeral march in ¾ time. The melody underpins the chorus’ grim meditation on the vanity of all worldly things as it sings “all flesh is as the grass.”

Eric Castro sang the baritone solos.
Photo: RICH SCHMITT/CTN.

The third movement includes the solo for a baritone, who asks the Lord to “make me to know the measure of my days on Earth,” which means that we need to realize we have an end and that our lives have a purpose.

The fourth movement provides a respite from somber thoughts, as the chorus sings in waltz-time “How lovely is thy dwelling place.”

The fifth movement includes a soprano solo, which many feel may have come from the loss that Brahms felt for his mother. The soprano sings “You now are sorrowful, but I will see you again,” to which the chorus replies, “I will comfort you as one whom his own mother comforteth.”

Kerith Spencer-Shapiro was the soprano soloist.
Photo: RICH SCHMITT/CTN

The sixth movement is an apocalyptic vision in which the chorus plays the role of souls awaiting resurrection. The baritone leads to the chorus: “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.” The movement ends in triumph as the chorus sings “Death, O where is thy sting?”

The final movement is a tranquil conclusion with the chorus singing, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”

This was an outstanding professional performance by an orchestra and chorale and one feels that if Brahms were looking down, he might say, “Blessed are those who offer comfort through music and song.”

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One Response to REVIEW: Impressive – Palisades Symphony and Brentwood Palisades Chorale

  1. Christine Odionu says:

    Thank you Sue happy you and everyone enjoyed the Palisades Symphony and the Brentwood Chorale at CUMC. It was beautiful and cannot wait to see the Chamber this Sunday

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