Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ceremony of Carols

Tonight David and I were thrilled to hear a superb performance of Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols at St John Cantius church in Chicago's former Polish Town. The building is a remarkable 1898 structure, elegant without and within.

St. John Cantius

The St. Cecilia Choir was conducted by Daniel Robinson who led them through this extraordinary work with elegance, imagination, and great musicianship. The singers performed with a lovely, unforced sound. The sopranos sing in tune; no flat singing here, such as I often hear from choir sopranos. And no screamy high notes!

I have conducted this work many times in its original form: three female voices. Tonight the revised version was used which is for SATB choir. But Dan managed to keep everything light and crisp in spite of the addition of tenor and bass voices.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth. He is indeed the pre-eminent composer of the last century.

Dan worked under John Ferris at Harvard some time ago and I could hear John's influence in the presentation.

The very good harpist was Renee Wilson. The Magnificat Choir, a group of young singers, also sang beautifully and effortlessly. It was conducted by Br. Chad McCoy, S.J.C.

I would say that the music program in this church is in very good hands.

Before the service of Lessons and Carols began, a delightful ensemble performed an instrumental prelude. The musicians were Julianne Skones, oboe, Heather Thon, clarinet, and Hanna Sterba, bassoon. Their arrangements of mostly vocal pieces were delightful. Many were by Daniel Kelley.

Before the concert we had a delicious seafood dinner at Riva on Navy Pier with a great view of the Chicago skyline.