by Marilyn J. Rowland, The Enterprise
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Read notes for Acquaintance with Nature (2002) for SATB chorus, clarinet, and piano
David MacKenzie was clearly enthusiastic about the music he had selected for the Mastersingers by the Sea performances this past weekend at St. Barnabas Church in Falmouth. He positively glowed while elaborating on the theme, love and mystery, in the pre-concert talk on Saturday evening, even though attendance at that portion of the event was light, and his talk was energizing and entertaining, and the dozen of us who were there learned a lot about the composers, the classical and romantic styles, and the works of contemporary composers.
In the end, though, the exquisite music spoke for itself. The musicians performed flawlessly, the singers sang beautifully, and pieces so carefully selected for the evening were joyfully received by the appreciative audience who now filled the church. The Mastersingers, it was said by more than one participant and observer, had really found their voice. Midway through their second season, the group, led by Dr. MacKenzie, who is also conductor of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, has found their niche in a balance between its 21-member choir and a small chamber group of musicians; a focus on the choir and an interplay among voices, and an emphasis on bringing new and rarely played music to the public. It is a powerful and effective mix.
...Next was contemporary composer Gwyneth Walker’s Acquaintance with Nature, based on the writings of Henry David Thoreau. Representing “love of nature,” this piece was arranged by Dr. MacKenzie for chorus, clarinet, harp, and string quartet from Ms. Walker’s original work for chorus, clarinet and piano. Saturday’s performance was the premiere performance of the piece, which sets the words of Thoreau to music sung by the chorus, featuring tenor Steven Koglin of Cotuit, adding a narrator (B. Grant Willis, former president of the Falmouth Historical Society, and some jazzy influences.
The result was a wonderful, buoyant expression of Thoreau’s search for meaning, “to live deliberately.” Mr. Koglin’s solo, “I seek acquaintance with Nature,” was warm and expressive, and effectively echoed by the clarinet. There was considerable variety of mood and vocal interest in this piece, from the lyrical to the soft and restrained, to the spoken word. And the words themselves were inspiring: ‘There are from time to time mornings, both in summer and in winter, when especially the world seems to begin anew.” This work offered one of those times.