The Chancel Choir of South Church, where it is my privilege to serve as one of five section leaders, is nearing the end of its preparation for the annual Candlelight Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, to be offered this year on Sunday, December 20, 2009, at 4:00 p.m., at South Church in New Britain. (Snow date: Monday, December 21, 7:30 p.m.) A free-will donation will be received which will support the Festival and benefit the South Church Survival Fund. A reception follows in Cooper Hall. All are welcome!
Here's a photo taken during the 2008 Festival:
The South Church Festival, presented by The Music Series at South Church, is modeled on the Festival given at King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England, first sung in 1918. (You can read about the King’s College Festival, and learn more about its history, here: http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/events/chapel-services/nine-lessons.html.)
Like the King’s College Festival, the South Church Festival features scripture readings of the Christmas story, congregational carol singing, and anthems for the season sung by the wonderful South Church Chancel Choir. The congregation is invited to sing several carols and hymns, including the favorite “Once in David’s Royal City,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and (I hope) “On This Day Earth Shall Ring.” David Westfall will close the program with one of his truly amazing organ improvisations. Oh, don’t miss it!
To tempt you, here is the list of anthems to be sung by the Chancel Choir:
William Mathias – Sir Christèmas
Hubert Bird – Adam Lay y-Bounden
Philip Ledger – A Spotless Rose
John Rutter – Ave Maria
Bryan Kelly – Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis
Colin Mawby – How Far Is It to Bethlehem
Ken Burton – The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy
Healey Willan – The Three Kings
John Gardner –A Christmas Hymn
Here are my impressions of three of these carols:
William Mathias – Sir Christèmas – I love the strong rhythms and bold harmonies of William Mathias’ choral music, and Sir Christèmas offers both in abundance. This is a rollicking, earthy carol, invoking the pagan roots of the mid-winter Christmas celebration. The organ accompaniment, which leaps and bounds in counterpoint to the voices, is played with crisp confidence by our organist extraordinaire, David Westfall.
Hubert Bird – Adam Lay y-Bounden – Many composers have created quietly introspective music for Adam Lay y-Bounden, an anonymous 15th-century text which contemplates Adam’s (i.e., our) sin and the cleansing of that sin through Christ’s birth. Bird takes an altogether different approach, with a surging, forward-leaping setting that creates a sense of urgency and, ultimately, joy. With dark whisperings, the voices at first lament the ancient sin, but ultimately an exuberant song of thanks and praise emerges,
Philip Ledger – A Spotless Rose – The twelve measures of this carol (repeated for a total of twenty-four), composed for the Choir of King’s College, are so, so beautiful. The harmonies are intriguingly fresh without jarring the ear, and the blossoming of voices at the phrase “a spotless rose unfolds” is breathtaking. Like a rose: simple, intricate, memorable.
I'll share impressions of the remaining carols next week.
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The Music Series at South Church presents
A Candlelight Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 4:00 p.m.
90 Main Street, New Britain, Connecticut
Snow date: Monday, December 21, 7:30 p.m.
A free-will donation will be received which will support the Festival and benefit the South Church Survival Fund.
A reception follows in Cooper Hall.
All are welcome.