Sunday, December 8, 2019

Concert Season

One of my friends, a former professional violist (now, I guess, a semi-professional?) asked me to tell her when my choir's having a concert, but when I was writing her a note earlier this week to invite her to today's performance, I was already pretty sure that she wouldn't be able to make it, because it's just that time of year when musicians have stuff going on (and I was right).

Prior to this week's rehearsal, it was a little touch and go. We had a pretty challenging program, and I think we were starting to doubt our collective ability, but we had a good dress rehearsal Wednesday and our concert went really well.

The first half of the concert is Respighi's Lauda per la nativit√† del signore. I'd never even heard of it before we started working on it, but it's a gorgeous piece. We finally heard it with woodwind sextet at dress rehearsal, and that added a lot to the sound, just a really beautiful timbre with the oboe and
English horn (and 2 bassoons and 2 flutes). The piece has several long sections featuring 3- and 4- part men's chorus, and I'm absolutely a sucker for the sound of men's chorus.

The second half of the concert is a little more traditional Christmas concert-y, but there's still a lot of interesting pieces in there. We start with a carol called "Sir Christemas" with a 16th century text and 20th century musical setting. It's fine. Another original composition is "Winter Wind," a setting of Shakespeare, which is lovely, and then what I assume is a traditional carol "Bring us in good ale, which was either arranged by Holst or actually written by him. Very much in the tradition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" or the various wassailing songs, t's got some tricky melodic lines and accelerates crazily at the end. There's an arrangement of "Huron Carol" (Canada's oldest Christmas song!), and it's pretty. We're doing two "Songs of Peace" in Hebrew by Jeremiah Klarman. Then there's a Rutter arrangement of the second tune of "I saw three ships," which feels very... British. It has whistling, for goodness sake. Then there "The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights)" which feels very Broadway--which was no surprise once I looked up the composer, Stephen Schwartz, and saw that he wrote music for Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked. It finally came together for me at the concert. Then there's the Willcocks arrangement of "Ding dong! merrily on high" and a really beautiful and moving arrangement of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Dan Forrest, which includes oboe solo. The David Chase arrangement of "Angels We Have Heard On High" is quite nice, as is the Willcocks "Jingle Bells" that we end with.

We won't get to do the Respighi again, but we have two more performances of the other pieces the next two weeks at a couple area nursing homes. And I kind of like those performances as well or better than the big performances: smaller, more intimate venue, and the choir is also smaller, because not everyone in the group can make it, and I actually like smaller groups better (not that it's small, even so).

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