Musings from the Artistic Director

“A Winter’s Night” — Christmas with St. Martin’s

St. Martin’s Chamber Choir’s Christmas concerts this year, “A Winter’s Night,” contain probably my all-time favorite extended Christmas work (and it will soon be yours too, after you hear it!), Benjamin Britten’s haunting and mystical “A Boy Was Born.” Britten draws on (mostly) Medieval nativity texts, and creates a tapestry of ancient wonder and mysticism, coupled with intensely emotional music (for an example of this mystical intensity, watch this little video we filmed the other day, and either watch through to 3:56, or fast forward there, to hear SMCC singing “Jesu, as Thou Art Our Saviour” from the last time we performed this work, in 2010). Although a product of his youth, composed when he was 20, he revised the work in his 50’s, demonstrating the high regard he continued to have for it. It therefore, in my estimation, combines the freshness of youthful creativity with the assurance of artistic maturity.

Other items on the program include Cecilia McDowall’s “A Winter’s Night,” a medley of 5 arrangements of familiar carols with organ that is winsome and beautiful; two carols by Herbert Howells (includng the beloved “A Spotless Rose,” as 2017 is the 125th anniversary of his birth); and four carols for audience participation, where the organ and choir provide embellishments like creative harmonizations and soaring descants (by Sir David Willcocks and me) to your own lusty singing along.

So this will be a winning combination of the familiar (sure to get you into the holiday spirit) and the fresh (to deepen your experience of it). Presented four times, in four different locations, there’s sure to be a time or place that suits you!

  • Friday, Dec. 15, 7:30pm, St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Capitol Hill (advance sales quite healthy, so get tickets soon if this is the one you want)
  • Saturday Dec. 16, 7:30pm, Montview Presbyterian Church, Park Hill
  • Sunday, Dec. 17, 3:00pm, St. Paul Lutheran and Catholic Community of Faith, Capitol Hill (my personal favorite acoustic, if that appeals to you)
  • Friday, Dec. 22, 7:30pm, Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village (easiest venue for parking and accessibility)

Tickets available at our website: www.stmartinschamberchoir.org/concerts; or our office at (303) 298-1970.


At the final rehearsal for our Christmas Concert, we are offering a special event called “Wassail with the Singers.” This is on Sunday afternoon, December 10, and offers an advance (and an insider’s) view of the concert, followed by a reception hosted by the singers. This takes place at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2015 Glenarm Place, Denver (plenty of free parking north of the church), and tickets can be had by calling the office at (303) 298-1970. I often find rehearsals just as interesting (for different reasons) as concerts. And getting to mix with the singers has been great fun for many. The rehearsal is 2:00-4:30 in the church (come anytime during that period), and the reception is 4:30-5:30 in the church undercroft. If you can’t make any of the four concerts, due to travel plans or whatnot, this provides a fifth opportunity to hear the concert!


My doctoral thesis advisor, and the retired organist of Royal Holloway College, University of London, under whom I worked and sang for two years in the early 90’s, has just told me that a book of his is about to be published, so I wanted to let you know of it. It is called ‘Peter Philips at the Archdukes’ Court: Church Music in the Spanish Netherlands’ (Austin Macauley, London), and comes out today. Peter Philips was a Tudor era composer who fled Britain after the Reformation due to his staunch Catholicism, and worked in the low countries. A fascinating composer, combining the continental style that he absorbed later in life with his earlier English training, akin to William Byrd’s.

Happy Advent!