December 14, 2010

Washington Post Review - Joy of Christmas

Tickets are on sale now for The Joy of Christmas! at the Strathmore Music Center
Monday, December 20th 8:00pm!

Review: Joy of Christmas, Joe Banno
Positive responses to music director J. Reilly Lewis's "Joy of Christmas" programs with his Cathedral Choral Society have become almost as much a tradition of the season as the concerts.But, as Saturday's annual presentation proved again, these are the smartest, least-hackneyed and most musically satisfying of the plentiful choral events on offer in the Washington area each December.The cathedral, of course, always adds powerfully to the atmospherics at work - whether wrapping an evocative halo around the divided-chorus antiphony in Elizabeth Poston's "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" during Saturday's opening Advent wreath procession, or providing crisp reverberation to the athletically virtuosic brass-quintet playing from members of the Washington Symphonic Brass. But the fresh repertoire on offer brought comparable rewards, with a mix of rarely heard material from Felix Mendelssohn and 16th-century composer Jacob Handl, and lovely contemporary pieces by Stephen Caracciolo, Alexander L'Estrange, Frank La Rocca and Richard Wayne Dirksen.The premiere of a newly commissioned carol, "The Nine Gifts" by Robert Chilcott, revealed a warmly consonant charmer. But there was challenging pungency in the torrential onslaught of Adolphus Hailstork's Toccata on "Veni Emmanuel," played with great verve by organist Todd Fickley. Even that tired chestnut of Christmas choral concerts, the guest appearance by a high school chorus, was elevated here by the pure tone, rich blend and superior musicianship of the Maret School Concert Choir, which, under James Irwin's sensitive baton, more than held its own against the rarefied beauty of the Cathedral Choral Society.The program will be repeated in the airy, if more secular, acoustics of Strathmore Hall on Dec. 20.
- Joe Banno


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