Ivars Taurins guest conductor
Dates and Venue 1 and 3 December 2006, Ryerson United Church
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Vancouver Chamber Choir's repertoire of Christmas Carols, Baroque style, received a warm welcome from Vancouver audiences, with Ivar Taurins' majestic conducting and La Cetra's baroque instrument performers under Ray Nurse.
German, English and Latin Christmas Carols were sung by VCC's august group of professional vocalists. The first half opened with Dietrich Buxtehude's Das neugeborne Kindelein ("The Newborn Child") followed by Heinrich Schutz's composition of Sei gegrusset, Maria ("Hail, Mary") of which many compositions have been made based on this Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary.
The first part ended with a long canticum of the 17th century French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, In nativitatem Domini canticum, which heralded the birth of Christ. The lyrics are in Latin, and it starts off with the Chorus of the Just asking the heavens to bring forth the Saviour: aperiatur terra et germinet Salvatorem.
There is a pause from the singers as the baroque instruments of La Cetra plays a quiet song, then the choir of shepherds sing of a great, terrible light, lux maga, lux terribilis, to which an angel comes down to announce the birth of the Saviour.
The chorus of angels then sings the Gloria to which the shepherds sing back Transeamus usque Bethlehem ("Let us go to Bethlehem"). Musical interlude as the shepherds journey, then sing the final chorus Exultemus, jubilemus ("Let us exult, let us rejoice"). This was a long cantata, but beautifully delivered.
The second half started with English composer Henry Purcell's "I bring you glad tidings". It was very curious how Purcell died of a cold or pneumonia at the age of 36 because he was locked out of his own house one night!
Andreas Hammerschmidt's O ihr lieben Hirten ("O beloved shepherds") was next, and then Dietrich Buxtehude's In dulci jubilo, the title piece of the programme. Again, another curious tradition of macaronic carols, i.e., those that mix more than one language. In this particular one, a mixture of German and Latin. This tradition was all over Europe. In Spain, for example, it was the ladino, a mixture of Latin and Spanish.
The highlight of the evening was the last carol composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, Lobet den Herrn ("Praise the Lord"). This was a very jubilant song sung energetically by the ensemble, inspired by the energy of Ivars Taurins as he swayed and flowed along, leading the choir to its heights. This end song merited a standing ovation from the audience who clamored for more. An encore of the same number ended this joyous Christmas baroque event.
© 2006 Ed Farolan