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April 2, 2004

New York Times

The choir at St. Thomas Church is composed of adult tenors, basses and countertenors and of boy sopranos who study at the church's own choir school. It produces a polished, powerful and beautifully balanced sound that for sacred music particularly that of the Renaissance and Baroque, historically sung by all-male choirs is about the best that New York has to offer. That is due largely to Gerre Hancock, the church's organist and choir director for the last 33 years. This year, Mr. Hancock is leaving the church, and New York, to teach at the University of Texas in Austin. He is not leaving immediately: he will direct Holy Week services, which at St. Thomas, on Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street, draw on the full history of sacred music.

But the performance of Handel's "Israel in Egypt" that Mr. Hancock led on Tuesday evening was his last public concert as a choral conductor at the church. These concerts have always reached well beyond the church's constituency, and Mr. Hancock's thoughtfully paced and vividly characterized performance of "Israel in Egypt" showed why. The choir was at its flexible best. It sang the text, which is taken from Exodus and a handful of Psalms, with complete clarity, and the boy sopranos produced a consistently pure, strong tone that was perfectly weighted against the adult voices. There is comparatively little music for solo voices in this narrative work, a cause for complaint in Handel's time, but not particularly an issue now.

Posted by acapnews at April 2, 2004 8:54 AM

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