Please join us for the 2012 Christmas Concerts. On the program are two masterworks for the holiday season: Benjamin Britten’s whimsical and haunting cantata, Saint Nicolas, and Bach’s rhapsodic Magnificat. The link that our esteemed conductor, Greg Funfgeld, drew between these two pieces in programming them is that they were written for, and should delight, children (of all ages). St. Nicholas was written for the 100th anniversary of Lancing College in the UK, and has prominent choral and solo parts for children. Likewise, Bach wrote his brief yet epic Magnificat for the Thomanenchor, the choir of boys and men who sang at his church, St. Thomas, in Leipzig. Both pieces are, in their individual ways, deeply evocative of their texts, and, for both of them, we’ll be joined by the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus, under the direction of Dr. Joy Hirokawa.
St. Nicolas was scored for choir, children’s choir, tenor soloist (who sings the role of Nicolas), strings, piano duet, percussion and organ. There are also a few children soloists. As I mentioned, it was written for the centennial of Lancing College, and was designed in part for performance by (talented) amateur forces, combined with professionals. The choral parts are actually quite demanding, as are the children’s roles, and the tenor part is fierce. This is the first of a few compositions Britten aimed at amateur performing forces (though I’d argue that most probably remain out of reach of amateur groups). Still, Britten’s vote of confidence is affirming!
The piece is somewhat tricky to describe, except to say that it is a somewhat compact demonstration of Britten’s arch musical talent, his musical omnivorousness, and the combination of innocence and sophistication that mark all of his compositions. Another common facet of Britten’s work was his collaboration with great poets and librettists, and, in Eric Crozier, the writer of the texts for St. Nicolas, Britten’s imagination must have been especially stimulated. The words, and Britten’s setting of them, are absolutely magnificent: deeply evocative, emotionally moving, fiercely imaginative.
I recently had an enjoyable conversation with Waldemar Vinoskis, the classical music coordinator at WDIY 88.1 FM, about the music for this program, including some musical examples, and our dear friends at WDIY were kind enough to archive that conversation on their website. You may have a listen here.
Likewise, our conductor, Greg Funfgeld, prepared a YouTube about the concert, available below:
Stay tuned to the blog for updates as we enter our final week before the concerts. I’ll have some observations about the rehearsal process, more musical insights, and a countdown to the big events. If you’d like to order tickets, you may visit our online ticketing site here.