Cornerstone Chorale and Brass

OCTOBER 11, 2009

I’ve never encountered anything quite like “The Courage to Care,” the program presented by Bruce Vantine’s Cornerstone Chorale and Brass. Part church service, part passion play, part concert, this program assumes a unique form in which Mr. Vantine attempts to carry out his stated mission “to use our time, talents and resources to minister to our brothers and sisters in need.”

On hand were a brass quintet, a pianist, a percussionist, two narrators, a chorus of twenty one and the conductor-composer-creator, Dr. Bruce Vantine. The performance ran without intermission and the audience was instructed to withhold applause until the end. The program was divided into five large sections entitled “By your will created,” “Called to serve all people,” “The courage to care,” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” and “Be not afraid.” We were provided with an eleven page program which contained the words of the narrators and of the choral selections, and I am happy to report that the lights in the audience were sufficiently bright that one could read the program with ease. This was especially helpful during the two hymns, which were audience sing-alongs. At other times it was hardly necessary, as the diction of the narrators and singers was exemplary.

Their fine diction was not the only way in which the Chorale excelled. Throughout the program they sang with beautiful sound, excellent intonation, and sincerity of intention. The several solos performed by chorus members were all well executed. Standing front and center, attractively clad in red, black and white, and singing everything by memory, they were the stars of the show. Equally skilled, however, was the brass quintet. During one of the most poignant moments of the “God so loved, etc.” section we were treated to a performance of one of music’s most beautiful pieces; the Adagio from Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 (“Pathetique.”) Here Mr. Vantine’s message seemed to be that during times of greatest emotion, when words fail, music speaks.

This listener would have enjoyed the program more had there been fewer Christological exhortations throughout. To those of us who are not of the Christian faith, a program such as this can seem presumptuous and even distasteful. However, I was probably the only non-believer in the hall, and I can report that the rest of the audience loved it, as they demonstrated with a standing ovation at the end.

Written by Barrett Cobb for New York Concert Review.

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