Camerata Christmas

camerata singers

By Scott MacClelland

HOLIDAY CHORAL CONCERTS rarely include large-scale works and Camerata’s this season fell in with most others in presenting a festive sampler to kick-off the holidays. Yes, I know Black Friday turns every other holiday claim on its head and the week just ended was by far the most congested of the calendar year with every kind of live performance art vying for audience. (This week is pretty full-up too, but next week’s pickings will be few and far-between.)

John Koza’s 30-member vocal ensemble—somewhat reduced from its usual complement—was joined by a brass quintet, two percussionists and organist Tiffany Bedner at First Pres in Monterey on a warm (75 degrees) Sunday afternoon. They offered up a fairly short but programmatically generous assortment of jewels, gems and bonbons. About half were originals while the others were arrangements as, in one memorable example, John Rutter’s extravagant vision for Three Kings of Orient. Koza skillfully alternated between a cappella numbers and those with instruments, some full-out, like Leo Nestor’s Magnificat, Randol Alan Bass’ Gloria and the flamboyant Christmas Joy, a medley of favorites that, but for the final Silent Night, summed up the afternoon.

But for me the most interesting were Benjamin Britten’s A Hymn to the Virgin (which drew out a solo quartet from the choristers), Edmund Rubbra’s Dormi, Jesu!, Jetse Bremer’s contrapuntal and rhythmically tricky In dulce jubilo, Dan Forrest’s deeply-felt The Work of Christmas and Richard Zgodava’s bouncing Out of the orient crystal skies. Most of these were 20th century or 21st and, I’m guessing, area premieres.

Meanwhile I’m eagerly looking forward to Camerata’s promised Beatitude Mass by Henry Mollicone in March.