Sunday, December 5, 2010

The First Baptist Church - Vivaldi, Larson, Baker, Choplin, Grant & Smith - 12/05/10

Conductor: Gordon Scott
Vivaldi: Gloria
Shepherds’ Echo Carol (How Great Our Joy)” - Traditional German Carol
Larson: “Manger Songs
Baker: “All in the Silence of the Night
Choplin: “Star of Advent
Grant & Smith: “No Eye Had Seen

I have always been highly allergic to Christmas music and religious institutions, so I did have some misgivings when I saw the poster for “Vivaldi’s Gloria And Other Music of the Season with Choir, Soloists and Chamber Orchestra” (Quite a mouthful!) at the First Baptist Church on the corner of Broadway and 79th Street earlier this week. On the other hand, it was free and near my new home, so I quickly decided that it would be my one and only personal bit to honor the holiday season this year. Therefore, last night I braved the biting cold and walked down the animated twelve blocks amidst a Saturday night crowd that was busy browsing window displays, picking up Christmas trees, piling up shopping bags (What recession?) and generally showing plenty of high spirits.

The church, which looks so imposing from outside, was surprisingly, if attractively, bare inside, except for a row of bright red poinsettias in front of the stage and discreetly sparkling lights here and there. The small stage quickly welcome a small orchestra and choir, and pretty soon Vivaldi’s famously florid Gloria was filling up the whole space. While it did not have the finesse or unity of a large professional orchestra, the ensemble at hand made up for it with plenty of dedicated commitment and continuous enthusiasm. The soloists, in particular, had a few truly lovely moments.
The rest on the program consisted of a few other season-appropriate short pieces, none of which I was familiar with, but they all went down very smoothly. To conclude this nice little concert, “Silent Night, Holy Night”, at last a classic that we could all groove to, was performed by everybody in the church, with a lit-up candle in one hand and, for those of us who did not know the words by heart, the program in the other. Luckily for the ones around me, I kept my mouth shut so as not to break the charm. My neighbor, however, did not hesitate to belt out and even occasionally hit the right notes. After the unexpected juggling act was over, it was time for a little bit of preaching and since there was no way to discreetly escape, I sat in for the closing pastoral comments as well. Then it was back out in the even more biting cold for the over-heated-but-it-sure-beats-the-alternative-these-days comfort of my little pad.

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