An essential part of festival celebrations
Yet again Marjorie Pettit and her talented singers have given us a joyous Advent concert drawn from multiple sources and cultures across the centuries.
The Bermuda Chamber Choir & Orchestra and the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir both featured in Joy To The World, performed at St John’s Church on Friday and Saturday.
Highlights in the first half included the medieval Angelus ad Virginem, a lively dance in triple time with tambourine and drone accompaniment.
Bach’s stately Cantata No. 191, Gloria in excelsis Deo followed with full choir, triumphant brass and timpani yielding to strings and voice in a tender, moving evocation of the words ‘peace on Earth’.
Syncopated rhythms and pizzicato work from the strings accompanied John Gardner’s arrangement of Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, a song whose origin is unknown but which tells the story of Christ’s life in terms of dance and redemption.
Joanna Sherratt-Wyer gave us a beautiful soprano solo verse of Holy Night.
To conclude, Naphisa and Sari Smith played the opening allegro from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor. The piece has an urgent driving but fugacious melody, each instrument taking turns to seamlessly pick up from the other to take foreground or background. It requires technical brilliance as well as instant and empathic intuition to make these changes. The sisters brought us all to our feet to applaud this extraordinary performance, the best I have ever heard of this work.
Jingle Bells, with an emphatic rhythmic pizzicato, opened the second half. It was followed by an outstanding solo performance of Silent Night by Youth Choir member Miriam Dill. The Youth Choir then performed the Calypso Carol with its charming refrain, ‘Oh now carry me to Bethlehem/ To see the Lord of love again’.
Two less well known items followed.
Still a Bach Christmas by Jay Althouse incorporates the words of the carol Still, Still, Still into the melody of the first movement of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 3 in D major, known better as Air on the G String, and a modern carol by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, Mary, Did You Know?
The concert concluded with all choirs brilliantly performing Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, a piece of musical treasure that never fails to move with its sheer joyousness. The Joy To The World concerts are now an integral and essential part of Bermuda’s festival season celebrations.
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