Musings from the Artistic Director

St. Martin’s Christmas concerts taking shape

Anticipation is building (in me, at least!) for St. Martin’s Chamber Choir’s Christmas concerts, called “A Winter’s Night.” The sublimely beautiful and poignantly haunting piece “A Boy was Born” by Benjamin Britten is the featured work, comprising the entirety of the second half. Britten called the piece a “Choral Theme and Variations,” and it is in seven movements (the theme and six variations). The theme itself is a deceptively simple motive (sort of like Beethoven’s 5th symphony, every note of which is based on the well-known opening four notes), in this case the four notes C, D, F, D (or 1-2-4-2 in terms of scale degrees). The motive gets embellished, flipped upside down, played backwards, expanded, contracted, etc., using all the familiar techniques of thematic development. One of the more usual variations of the four notes is one of five notes, C-D-F-D-F, which, when one looks at the last three, reminds me of the pattern of the last three letters of the name JESUS. I keep trying to work out how this might be a coded spelling of the work’s subject, i.e. the “boy” who is “born” (a la BACH as B flat-A-C-B, using the German names for the notes). I haven’t come up with it yet, but there are several eminent musicologists who are recipients of this Weekly, and perhaps one of you will work something out…

The first half will contain several carol settings by Herbert Howells, 2017 being the 125th anniversary of his birth; and a delightful work called “A Winter’s Night” by British composer Cecilia MacDowall. This arrangement of 5 different and familiar Christmas Carols is for organ and chorus, and we will be joined by organist extraordinaire Richard Robertson. Add to this a few audience-participation carols (with the organ, embellished by the choir singing descants and such), and you’ve got the perfect ingredients for a fantastic Christmas concert — some familiar and beloved carols to put you into the holiday spirit, and some poignantly beautiful, probably unfamiliar sounds that will deepen your experience of the holidays.

Tickets available from our website, or call our office for assistance at (303) 298-1970.

Fri. Dec. 15, 7:30pm — St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral Denver
Sat. Dec. 16, 7:30pm — Montview Blvd. Presbyterian Church, Park Hill
Sun. Dec. 17, 3:00pm — St. Paul Lutheran Community of Faith, Denver
Fri. Dec. 22, 7:30pm — Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village