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Master Chorale stirs the soul

Hearing words you know in a different context can make them new. Hearing Thomas Jefferson's brilliantly written and heartfelt words sung by a top-notch choir is to recognize again this most important founding father's genius.

The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay sang with an orchestra Saturday night at Pasadena Community Church, and that their selections would be so relevant and fulfilling could not be imagined when they were picked last summer.

Opening with Libby Larsen's A Choral Welcome, the choir and orchestra reminded of us of our current victory. "Live! We all live!" they sing, and suddenly we all remember: Yes, we do.

Franz Joseph Haydn's Mass in Time of War followed, a beautiful Mass given its martial air with the use of timpani and trumpets. (Timpanist Chuck Riehle played with remarkable subtlety.)

Haydn's melodies were richly sung and played with clarity and accuracy.

The emotional power of the 1796 Mass swept the audience along with it, with the cry of the trumpets a chilling reminder of the war (with Napoleon) that waited outside the church gates.

The Testament of Freedom, composed (around Jefferson's words) by Randall Thompson, is a powerful piece of music. Simply reading Jefferson's words can induce chills. The Master Chorale takes these words and makes of them life _ our lives.

Jefferson's words roll with the hopeful music our country was founded on, and so does Thompson's music. Imagine massed voices declaring the following: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them."

The evening ended with a wonderfully arranged Battle Hymn of the Republic. Using male voices alone in the last verse lent a strength and resonance to the music.

Conductor Richard Zielinski led the chorus, the orchestra and the audience through a range of emotions, from the inspirational opening and closing of the Haydn through the quieter Credo and on into the determination and grace found in the Jefferson-Thompson piece. The voicings of the choir were carefully placed, lending fullness to the music.

Zielinski, aside from being a visual focus, is an energy focus as well. The feeling that everything happens here because he wills it is inescapable.

Soloists Maya M. Clausen (soprano), Catherine Bassett (alto), C. William Renfroe Sr. (tenor) and Ralph Bassett (bass) sang with relaxed power.