Vancouver Chamber Choir
he Angel Sang: An Advent Concert

Conductor: Jon Washburn Harp: Heidi Krutzen
Salvador Ferreras

Venue: Holy Rosary Cathedral Date: 30 November 2002

Reviewer: John Jane

At this time of the year, Christians all over the world begin spiritual preparations for Christmas. This time of preparation is known as the season of Advent. For many people, an important element of this, is to share in a festival of Christmas music. The Vancouver Chamber Choir performed their Advent concert this weekend, appropriately in the Holy Rosary cathedral, in front of a surprisingly large gathering for a chilly November evening. Those of whom who managed to leave their cozy living rooms for the rather austere ambiance of the Cathedral experienced a joyous selection of well known, and not so well known carols and Christmas songs.

The twenty choir members and choirmaster appeared on the stage area, entering from behind the altar to welcoming applause and looking particularly festive, with the ladies dressed in bright red velour jackets. The programme got under way with four short carols by Healey Willan, including the jaunty "Tyrle, Tyrlow." Then, with scarcely missing a beat to accept the grateful applause, the choir swung into a triune of French songs adapted by Vancouver-born Peter Mathews, youngest of the featured composers and arrangers in the evening's programme.

Nativity SceneFor the next collection, the choristers adjusted their position to form four groups, and following an introduction from Jon Washburn on the history of this selection of compositions, each group delightfully interpreted seven songs originally intended as Christmas greetings from Robert and Margaret Fleming. The second of which was a cheery little verse titled "O Gladsome Hearts, Remember" that featured a brief solo by new soprano Joanna Dundas.

The choir returned for the second half with a glorious rendering of what was probably the best known carol in the programme, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," Stephen Chatman's arrangement of the fifteenth-century processional hymn. This rendition may have provided some relief to a section of the audience to hear something they recognized, after a collection of rather obscure carols just prior to the break.

With a trilogy of Christmas canons, Heidi Krutzen on the harp and Salvador Ferreras with percussion bells provided splendid accompaniment. The first of these was a blissful "Whence come you, Shepherd Maiden" and delivered with such abundant zeal. The tempo slowed down to suit the sombre "New Prince, New Pomp," but then returned with the lively "Masters in the Hall."

The recital concluded with a first time performance by the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Four lyrical children's Christmas songs arranged by Mr. Washburn sung impeccably in German, with harp accompaniment provided once again by Heidi Krutzen. For those in the audience with German heritage, the music must surely have provoked visions of a childhood Weihnachten.

Christmas carols can be simple songs with complex origins, therefore perhaps an occasional brief narrative by the choirmaster may not have been amiss, considering the relative obscurity of certain sections of the programme. This Advent concert offered a vade mecum to Christmas choral music and will no doubt provide some inspiration to rejoice in the coming season.

2002, John Jane