In all the years that I've been writing about classical music for the Chestnut Hill Local, no concert of Christmas music has ever been more highly anticipated that the annual "Lessons and Carols" offered by St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill.
In all the years that I've been writing about classical music for the Chestnut Hill Local, no concert of Christmas music has ever been more highly anticipated that the annual "Lessons and Carols" offered by St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill. Even though the year 2020 has taught all of us to expect not only the unexpected but even the undesirable, the musical forces at St. Paul's have not permitted the Covid-19 coronavirus to derail this year's holiday musical celebration.
Parish music director Andrew Kotylo will lead his choristers in a service of "Lessons and Carols" Sunday, Dec. 20, 5 p.m., that will be steamed at that time online at stpaulschestnuthill.org. The performances were recorded just prior to Thanksgiving and will be available to be enjoyed for the final week of Advent leading to Christmas Day, Friday, Dec. 25.
"Schola A" will sing "Good King Wenceslas," "What Sweeter Music" and "Dormi, Jesu." "Schola B" will sing the hymns "Once in Royal David's City," "Up, Good Christian Folk and Listen," "Silent Night," "The Little Road to Bethlehem" and "Adam lay ybounden."
The "Women's Schola" will sing "Huron Carol." The professional staff vocalists will sing "Illuminare, Jerusalem," "Quem vidistis" and "A Babe is Born." All the choristers will join together for "Ave Maria."
The Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul will present a "virtual" Christmas concert that will be available online starting Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2 p.m. Holiday favorites will be sung by the choirs of the Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The link is: secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=TzNF6t.
Music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra in a program of works by West Chester's Samuel Barber and Florence Price. The concert was recorded in the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall and was available over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Barber composed his "String Quartet" in 1936 while he was still a student at Philadelphia's acclaimed Curtis Institute of Music. Upon hearing it, famed maestro Arturo Toscanini asked the young composer to arrange its slow movement for full string orchestra, leading the premiere of the "Adagio for Strings" in 1938.
Although much of Barber's output fell into eclipse following his death because many considered it "too romantic" for the times, that never happened to the "Adagio for Strings." It held and kept its place in the standard orchestral repertoire in spite of changing tastes. Now that Barber's music is beginning to receive its just due regard, the "Adagio" stands out as a lighthouse beacon of well-deserved appreciation.
Although Nezet-Seguin did not have the Orchestra's full string complement to call upon, he nonetheless was able to conjure up that sumptuous, shimmering glow made famous as the "Philadelphia Sound" by his illustrious predecessors Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and Wolfgang Sawallisch.
The music pulsed with passion, seethed with expressivity and soothed with gentleness.
Florence Price's Symphony No. 1 in E minor was also composed during the 1930s: between 1931-32 to be precise. Its style and structure recall the symphonies of Antonin Dvorak while investing them with the melodies and harmonies of the spirituals with which Price grew up.
Particular standouts in this performance were flutist Patrick Williams, oboist Peter Smith, clarinetist Samuel Caviezel and bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa.