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Choral evensong sets tone for Association of Anglican Musicians conference in DC

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"If this is your first time at St. John's {Georgetown} that makes two of us" said The Rev'd Virginia Gerbasi during her statement of welcome yesterday afternoon to the several hundred assembled for the opening choral evensong led by the St. John's Choir for The Association of Anglican Musicians conference in D. C. Gerbasi went on to share that the occasion marked her first day as rector of the historic parish, much to the thunderous applause by the august body of musicians from across the country.

The U.S. premiere of "By the Waters of Babylon" served as the prelude to the choral service. Conducted by former organist and master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey Martin Neary, the work featured locally based baritone Mark Duer, violinist Natasha Bogachek, cellist Yvonne Caruthers and organist David Sinden. Most importantly, Duer sang his baritone lines with a sense of conviction and was pleasingly effective in the delivery of a work that was a first hearing for many. Organist David Sinden used creative registrations and dynamics that not only brought out the depth of the text, but also created a feeling of ensemble between the assembled forces. This use of a solo vocal work with instruments as a prelude was a wonderful way to demonstrate the function of the prelude in worship and the Howells composition was a welcomed contrast.

From the rear of the sanctuary, The St. John's Choir under the direction of Samuel J. Carabetta offered the introit "Truly the Lord is in this place" by Bernard Barrell. Singing with a beautiful balanced choral sound, the choir was complimented by the warmth of the organ accompaniment.

Of special note was the richness of the collective hymn singing by the assembly of the nation's brightest church musicians. To hear a room resound in four part harmony on hymns with little effort was beyond amazing. Between the congregational hymns were several appointed scripture readings and liturgy that connected the service together in a uniquely seamless fashion. The anthem "O Lord, support us" by David Briggs was a reverent expression offered by the choir, not only musically, but also in the way that the long phrases gave life to the emotion of the text.

The timeless hymn "The day thou gavest, Lord is ended" joined the voices together for a final time as they lifted their voices heavenward, as if a blessing on the remainder of the conference.

The conference continues through Friday, June 20.