For Christmas last year, I asked my family and friends for gift cards to the Metropolitan Opera (since I automatically attend all of the Bach Choir’s concerts as a performer), and, as a result, we got to see wonderful performances of The Marriage of Figaro and Otello. We were extremely grateful for the experiences. Any good gift discussion from the vast repository of Bach Choir swag begins with concert performances. Visit the Season page of our website to ponder some of our offerings, but take special note of the upcoming Family and Spring Concerts – and bring the kids/grandchildren/neighbors’ kids/etc. Both of these concerts will child friendly – the Family Concert will be especially captivating this year. Likewise, the Spring Concert will feature our partners in the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Experiences are wonderful gifts that result in aesthetic and spiritual stimulation, as well as treasured memories.
If you visit The Choir’s online Shop, you’ll see there’s no end to the Christmas-appropriate merchandise, including four volumes of Christmas in Bethlehem, with all manner of Christmas caroling, treasured pieces, and some deep cuts, recorded expertly by some of the best engineers in the business. There’s also The Choir’s wonderful recording of the Christmas Oratorio from about 16 years ago. It wears its age extremely well, as does the earlier Christmas in Leipzig recording (which I wore out on cassette as an 8th grader). On the latter, The Choir sounds a bit plumper, but still with our trademarked agility and clarity, with stunning singing by a quartet of soloists including Janice Taylor, David Gordon, Dan Lichti, and Sylvia McNair (!).
If you’re looking for a stocking-stuffer for the grandkids/kids, and you’ve already bought them tickets to the Family Concert (seriously, bring the kids to this concert – Doug Roysdon and the Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre, along with Tricia van Oers on recorder, are going to make for a supremely charming and whimsical collaboration), you might consider A Child’s Christmas in Bethlehem, which is full of lovely poetry (read by both children and adults), children’s voices (Bel Canto, before our recent partnership), and all kinds of magical Christmas music.
Casting a slightly wider net, there’s Friend-of-The-Choir and NY Times Bestselling Author Lauren Belfer’s novel After the Fire, about which you may read here, in a guest blog post by the author, herself. I have a copy, and it’s been on my reading list for a while – this has been an especially busy fall! I intend to post about it once I’ve read it, but if you’ve beat me there, feel free to comment.
Also, another dear friend of The Choir, our beloved countertenor soloist, Daniel Taylor, has been working on a few recording projects for Sony with his new Trinity Choir, an assemblage of frightening talent from the highest echelons of choral performance. The two discs they’ve released, thus far, have both been of Christmas music. Four Thousand Winter was released last year, and the follow-up disc is entitled Tree of Life. Both discs are absolutely stunning, and have at their centers large works of renaissance polyphony (Tallis’ Videte Miraculum in the former, and Jean Mouton’s especially-glorious Nesciens Mater, in the latter). Filling out the programs on both discs are smaller works, both ancient and modern, with the unifying link of unusual spiritual and intellectual depth. The engineering and sonics are fabulous (both were recorded in churches with exceptional acoustics in London), and the performances are tears-in-your-eyes revelatory. Particular favorite tracks are Matthew Martin’s Adam Lay Ybounden, John Joubert’s There is No Rose (unknown to me before the recording, now a reliable moment of transcendence), and all of Arvo Pärt’s Seiben Magnificat-Antiphonen. The Antiphons are particularly evocative, and Daniel’s group is my new reference recording, not least in part because of the inextricable and achingly complementary relationship between performers and acoustics in these works. No digital or electronic tinkering can outshine a fantastic choir in a fantastic room. If you need an escape from all of the holiday clatter, you could hardly do better than these recordings, which are available from Amazon and on iTunes.
With this post, I’ll be signing off until the New Year, so a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to our friends who visit the blog. 2017 holds a lot of wonderful music in store for the Bach Choir family, and I’m looking forward to discussing it with you in the coming months! Finally, if you can, listen to The Choir’s broadcast of our 2016 Christmas Concerts, which will be on WWFM on Christmas Eve at 8 pm (I’ll be in the trenches at church, but if you’re looking for a healthy dose of Christmas magic and aren’t otherwise engaged, you can happily relive the spellbinding pleasure of the concert)!