Cantata Singers Celebrates The Holiday Season With A CANTATA SINGERS CHRISTMAS
Cantata Singers celebrates the holiday season with two opportunities to hear "A Cantata Singers Christmas"- on Friday, December 7th at 8pm, and on Sunday, December 9th at 3pm, both at First Lutheran Church in the heart of Boston's Back Bay.
Cantata Singers' Music Director David Hoose leads a program of radiant Baroque and Renaissance seasonal music for chamber chorus and ensemble. The program begins with Slovene composer Jacobus Gallus Handl's (1550-1591) "Mirabile mysterium," which features a style popular in Renaissance Venice of spatially separate choirs singing in alternation. Following is German composer Heinrich Schütz's (1585-1672) exquisite "Dulcissime et benignissime Christe," representing some of the best counterpoint written in the seventeenth century. Giovanni Gabrieli's (1554-1612) "O magnum mysterium" also exhibits the Venetian polychoral style of two alternating and distinct choirs made up of four voices each.
Concluding the first half of the concert are two pieces by Danish-German composer Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707). The first, "In dulci jubilo," is a traditional Christmas carol written for soprano, alto, bass, two violins, and continuo, featuring soprano Felicity Salmon, alto Amy Lieberman, and bass Brian Church. The text, written by German mystic and monk Henrich Suso, is one of the oldest and most famous examples of a "macaronic" song, or a text that combines both Latin and a vernacular language-in this case, German. The second work, "Das neugeborne Kindelein," was composed to celebrate the coming of the new year-also the sixth day of Christmas. The text sets four verses of a popular Christmas hymn, first published in 1588, that celebrates the birth of Jesus and the jubilation of the season.
The second half of the program begins with four works by English Renaissance composer William Byrd (1538-1623). A student of Thomas Tallis, William Byrd is considered one of the greatest English composers of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. His charming communion motet, "Vidimus stellam," was written for the celebration of Epiphany-the twelfth day of Christmas that recognizes the arrival of the three magi in Bethlehem to the baby Jesus. The delightful "Out of the Orient Crystal Skies," one of Byrd's Consort Songs, also celebrates Epiphany with resplendence, sung by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Webb. "Hodie beata Virgo," a motet for four voices rearranged for strings for this performance, and "Surge, illuminare, Jerusalam," a celebratory motet about Jerusalem, conclude the quartet of musical works by Byrd.
The program concludes with music by English composers Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and Robert Parsons (1535-1572). Purcell's "O Sing Unto the Lord" is a triumphant anthem based on Psalm 96, which is often read during Christmas Eve mass. The work was written specifically for John Gosling, an outstanding baritone active in the Chapel Royal in the 1680s. Soloists include bass Mark Andrew Cleveland, soprano Janet Ross, alto Jennifer Webb, and tenor Jeffrey Wang. Parsons' beautiful five-part motet, "Ave Maria," the most famous composition from his short life, will bring the concert to a sparkling close.
About Cantata Singers
A singular desire to bring to Boston's listeners music that isn't being heard anywhere else has inspired Cantata Singers' programming for 55 years.
In 1964, that music included the cantatas of J.S. Bach. Today, it may be hard for us to believe, but when Cantata Singers was founded in 1964, live performances of Bach cantatas were quite a rarity. In fact, Cantata Singers' early concerts featured the first Boston performances of many of the cantatas.
Bach's music, from the cantatas to the B-minor Mass to the Passions, remains an essential part of Cantata Singers' repertoire. However, the ensemble's repertoire has expanded to include music from the 17th century to today. Cantata Singers has commissioned 15 works for choir and orchestra-including one that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music-and has presented more than fifty Boston premieres of music both old and new.
Many of Boston's most talented musicians perform regularly with Cantata Singers. The chorus is made up of singers who have careers as musicians, educators, doctors, and architects. Many of these members appear as soloists with Cantata Singers, as well as with other highly respected organizations; some conduct other choruses and orchestras in the area. Although many of our musicians perform actively as solo singers, they choose to sing with Cantata Singers because of the reward they find in performing music of the choral canon at the highest possible level.
Cantata Singers has always focused on the music-be it by Bach, Verdi, Harbison, or Pärt-and its audiences do, too. Our audiences return year after year to hear fresh visions of iconic music, or an intriguing unfamiliar work that is-in fact-quite approachable. Each Cantata Singers concert is often surprising, sometimes challenging, always beautiful, and ultimately inspiring.