Review: Dominique Labelle “unforgettable,” “profoundly beautiful singing”

It was splendid to hear Aston Magna in Great Barrington in its new home (which is actually its old home), St. James Place, formerly St. James Episcopal Church. The church has been remodeled with imagination and skill. It is now one of the finest performance spaces in Berkshire County. The group’s performance was a landmark for me, the kind of concert you don’t forget. This was due largely to the profoundly beautiful singing of soprano Dominique Labelle. I remember a teacher saying to me that the inside of a musical note is easy—it is beginning and ending it that is hard. Dominique is the absolute mistress of this. Her sound came out of the air and went back into the air with passion. It was singing playing with silence. I often could not tell when the note started and when the note ended. Dominique is a great musical conjurer. She makes the “into” sound, and sends it back again. In fact, the silences in her performance were some of the most moving events. The very last notes of the recitative in The Judgement of Solomon, by Charpentier, were unforgettable. It was hard to tell when her singing stopped, and when it began it seemed conjured out of silence itself. Laura Jeppesen, playing both baroque viola and viola da gamba, contributed mightily to the program, her virtuosity never overstated. Violinist Daniel Stepner guided the group with his usual kindness and joy. This was a great concert.