The Villager
Greenwich Village, NY
January 31, 1974
by Jack Diether

Last Sunday at St. Luke’s Chapel on Hudson St., Gwen Gould conducted St. Luke’s Community Chorus and Orchestra in an unusually fine program. The principal work was Benjamin Britten’s energetic and exacting cantata “St. Nicolas.”

The cantata made a magnificent sound in the smallish chapel, with 36 singers, five string players, organist, two pianists, two percussionists, and a bit of audience participation in the two punctuating hymns.

The chorus and orchestra were first rate. The occasional boy sopranos and boy altos did not have the penetrating quality of English choir boys, and the mixed chorus was a bit light in the tenor department. But the tenor soloist, Lawrence Bennett as Nicolas himself, rang out with conviction, while Miss Gould kept everything in good order.

Before the cantata, a canon by Pachelbel was played by strings and harpsichord, and motets by Victoria and Sweelinck were sung. The presence of “Hodie Christus natus est” as well, as “St. Nicolas” suggested that the difficult concert might have been in preparation since before Christmas! If so, patience paid high dividends.

(note: the West Village Chorale started out as St. Luke’s Community Chorus in 1971 and was renamed the West Village Chorale in 1975)

The Newsletter for Professional & Amateur Choral Singers
March, 1993
by R. Schartoff

Gwen Gould, cond.
Handel: Judas Maccabaeus (1746)
Rutter: Magnificat (1990)

The 44-member WVC under the baton of its founder Gwen Gould, gave a secure and very entertaining performance of Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus” (omitting all recitatives and most solo arias) and John Rutter’s “Magnificat,” with the skilled backing of soprano Elizabeth Hendrekson-Farnum and what Gould calls her passion: the Columbia Festival Orchestra. Together they presented a “joyous celebration” of two works, that although written 250 years apart, seemed ideally juxtaposed for this concert. The chorus made its entrance into the quiet simplicity of St. Luke in the Fields Episcopal Church (located in the still charming section of Greenwich Village) wearing their Sunday best, each suit or blouse adorned with a red AIDS ribbon, as the enthusiastic audience eagerly awaited the opening chords. It was immediately obvious that most of the soloists (all members of the WVC save Hendreckson-Farnum) lacked professional polish. But then it became clear – this was the way Handel and Rutter had intended their music to be appreciated. Hadn’t Handel abandoned performances limited to aristocratic patrons and opened the theatre doors to the middle class, while Rutter had written his MAGNIFICAT to celebrate “the people”? From that visionary moment, the combination of the thrill one can experience from ensemble singing, the glorification of the common man and the venue coalesced into a transcendent statement. And when the singing ended, the applause dying down, everyone exited St. Luke’s having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.