City Choir Dunedin presents a programme of choral music for the Christmas season, including Charpentier's 'Messe de Minuit', Britten's 'A Ceremony of Carols', and Bach's 'Magnificat'. The Choir will be joined on stage by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, with David Burchell conducting. The soloists are Lois Johnston and Caroline Burchell (sopranos), Claire Barton (alto), Andrew Grenon (tenor) and James Harrison (bass). The featured musicians are Helen Webby on harp and Johnny Mottershead on the concert organ.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s delightful 'Messe de Minuit pour Noël' (Midnight Mass for Christmas) dates from around 1690 and was probably composed for the great Jesuit church of St. Louis in Paris, where Charpentier held the important post of maître de musique. His idea of basing a whole mass on French Christmas carols was completely original. Altogether there are eleven noëls, most of which are joyful and dance-like in character, reflecting the carol’s secular origins.
Benjamin Britten’s hugely popular 'A Ceremony of Carols' was inspired by his discovery of "The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems". It is an unusual setting for treble voices and harp. The “carols” are largely the product of 15th and 16th century writers, most of whom are anonymous. They retain their unique flavour by Britten's extensive use of old English language.
The breath-taking 'Magnificat' was composed by J.S. Bach in 1723. The impact of this great choral work derives essentially from Bach’s remarkable ability to balance, yet at the same time to exploit to the full, the spiritual and dramatic elements of the concise text of the Magnificat. It is a sublime pearl from an era rich in choral glory.