by John Zeugner, The Worcester Telegram and Gazette
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The work of two contemporary American composers, Paul Basler and Gwyneth Walker, was featured in Saturday nightís joint concert by the Master Singers of Worcester and the Salisbury Singers at St. Paul Cathedral.
The blended choruses, 110 strong across the full width of St. Paulís sanctuary, provided gorgeously rendered evidence of the beauty, charm and power of recent choral composition.
The second half of the concert was given over to Gwyneth Walkerís memorable amalgam of New England music and literature, New England Journey, a work commissioned for the 30th anniversary of the Master Singers of Worcester. That groupís artistic director, Malcolm Halliday, conducted.
If Graveline had emphasized the joint groupís cerebral intensity, nuance and control, Halliday pushed forward the groupís energy, dynamics and local patriotism. Walkerís piece is a marvel of intelligence and in-depth feel for New Englandís cultural range, from the haunting lilt of an Elizabeth Bishop sonnet, to the barbed satire of an Emily Dickinson poem, to the ferocious judgment of a William Billings song, to the sweet implied salvation of a Shaker hymn, and the calm resolution of a Whittier poem. Walker has found uncanny ways of blending her music with the sentiments expressed. The six different expressions dovetailed magically in renderings that were sweet, powerful and enthralling in Walkerís beguiling meditation on, in Billings's phrase, "New Englandís soul forever reigns."
Walker had come down from Vermont for this event, and the audience immediately gave her a standing ovation.