A playful take on Christmas tradition
Joy To The World
Featuring The Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra with The Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir at St John’s Church
Once again Marjorie Pettit has created a completely joyous and masterfully nuanced Christmas musical experience for us.
With more than a hundred singers and instrumentalists under her baton and in front of a capacity audience at St John’s Church in Pembroke last Friday, she shaped the audience’s emotional experience using judicious contrasts and subtle echoes in the choice and sequence of material.
The Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra can compare with any in the world and The Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir is ensuring a tradition of choral excellence will last generations.
Starting with the urgent syncopation of J.S. Bach’s Cantata 140 (Awake, Calls the Voice to Us) with its building interaction between orchestra and choir, we moved on to the music of his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and his Magnificat — at once up tempo and declamatory and rather Vivaldi-like.
Willcocks’s arrangement of Masters in This Hall, with its echoes of medieval dance, followed. After choir and orchestra had together sung the great Wesleyan hymn Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending, came Michael Praetorius’s A Great and Mighty Wonder, which subtly echoes the previous hymn and also formed a calm and contemplative centre to this half of the concert.
The instrumental highlight of the evening was Naphisa Smith’s and Jackson Spurling’s interpretation of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor (First Movement). We’ve heard this work performed by Menuhin and Oistrakh, Stern and Perlman, with massive orchestration.
But to me they sound clunky compared to Friday evening’s performers. Our two young soloists honed their violin dialogue to a perfection of subtle, competitive, almost flirtatious mirroring, which I found enchanting and unique.
The second half of the evening became more light-hearted with young soloists Miriam Dill (Winter Wonderland) and Thomas Evans (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).
Traditional and beloved Christmas music was there for us all to sing and the choirs wove beautiful descants around us.
Rutter’s syncopated, rather Calypso-like Jesus Child led us into the finale, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. I think that the mood of the 2018 concert was more playful and less serious than in previous years. And given its state, the world needs joy; the more light-hearted the better.