Oh joy! A night of Christmas music
Why is Christmas music so important? Because it has the power to rekindle in us our earliest experience of the festival’s magic.
It was obvious on Friday from the first note of the first programme item, Praetorius’ Psallite, that the 100 singers and musicians gathered in front of us were at peak skill and energy, completely comfortable with their material and confident in their ability to immerse us in its emotional and spiritual beauty.
Whether the Praetorius piece was familiar to us or not, its delivery was such that we all felt a distinct frisson of delight as it unfurled at St John’s Church in Pembroke.
Next, Bach’s Sleepers Awake showed how well the Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra and the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir were integrated. The orchestra’s sound was warm and deep, behind the choir’s declarative, and then syncopated, singing.
As usual, Marjorie Pettit was the director of this annual Christmas concert and Jennifer Sheridan the orchestra leader; supporting the orchestra in an unobtrusive but critically important way were bassist Brian Swan and percussionist Shelton Bean.
One cannot imagine Bach or Handel chorales without timpani punctuation, nor the Spanish carol Fum, Fum, Fum without castanets and drone.
Highlights of the first half of the concert ranged from Kerri Dietz’s moving and masterful solo of Sherri Porterfield’s arrangement of Rossetti’s Winter Carol, with its simple declaration of faith, through to the unabashed medieval dance sounds of Masters in the Hall, to Matthew Ross’s perfectly executed virtuosic trumpet solo, Voluntary in D Major by John Stanley.
Ross voiced each individual ornament note with such clarion precision that one could almost hear the valves of the instrument closing on their seals.
A talented newcomer made her singing debut: Zoe O’Connor. A member of the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir, she delighted us with a punchy, joyous and humorous version of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. Peter Nash sang David Willcocks’s arrangement of the traditional French carol Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing? It was a new item for many of us as indeed was Howard Blake’s immensely moving piece Walking in the Air from Raymond Briggs’s 1980 The Snowman.
Joanna Sherratt-Wyer gave us a beautifully tender Mary’s Boy Child and joined Kerri Dietz in the recitative Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind be Opened, with the linked airs He Shall Feed his Flock and Come Unto Him showing the subtle differences between the two soloists’ voices.
The choirs then joined to conclude this wonderful evening with Hallelujah Chorus.
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