Monday, December 19, 2016

Cantori New York - A Cantori Holiday - 12/17/16

Mark Shapiro: Artistic Director and Conductor 
Elliot Levine: Al Hanissim 
Malcolm Williamson: This Christmas Night 
Mykola Leontovich: Carol of the Bells (Arr. Peter J. Wilhousky) 
Alice Dryden: Banu Choshech 
 Basque Carol: Gabriel's Message (Arr. David Willcocks) 
 G. R. Woordward: Shepherds in the Fields Abiding (Arr. David Willcocks) 
14th Century German Melody: Lo, How the Rose (Arr. M. Praetorius) 
J. Pierpont: Jingle Bells (Arr. David Willcocks) 
Mark Shapiro: Piano 
Kim Gannon & Walter Kent: I'll be home for Christmas (Arr. David Willcocks) 
Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane: Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Arr. Ken Neufeld) 
Moses Hogan: Glory, Glory, Glory 
Soloist: Steve Underhill 
German Carol: Kling, Glöckchen, Kling (Arr. Robert Sieving) 
Every Voice Concert Choi
John Rutter: Donkey Carol 
Every Voice Concert Choir 
Folk Melody: Mi Zeh Hidlik (Arr. Elliot Z. Levine) 
Every Voice Concert Choir & women of Cantori 
Solomon Golub: Boruh Ate, Zingt der Tate (Arr. Bill Zulof and Elliot Levine) 
Every Voice Concert Choir & women of Cantori 
French Carol: Noël Nouvelet (Arr. Michael McGlynn) 
Elizabeth Poston: Jesus Christ and the Apple Tree 
Soloist: Sarah Glaser 
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Bogoroditse Devo 
English Carol: The Wassail Song (Arr. R. Vaughan Williams) 
Franz Xaver Biebl: Ave Maria 
Soloists: Ben Haile, Paul Rozario-Falcone 
Trio: Steve Albert, Steve Underhill, Joseph Holly-Beaver 
 Welch Carol: Deck the Hall (Arr. David Willcocks) 
West Country Carol: We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Arr. Arthur Warrell) 
Franz Gruber: Silent Night (Sing Along) 

As a six-year Cantori Holiday veteran, I cannot help but deduct that there is a direct connection between Cantori New York's holiday concert weekend and bad weather. Although it is a tradition that most of us really do not care for (the bad weather, not the holiday concerts), this year again, New York City had to put up with an unappetizing mix of snow and rain, as well as depressing gray skies, pretty much the entire weekend.
That said, it would have taken much more than unfavorable weather conditions to keep the typically packed audience, including a wide range of old and new friends, from gathering in Greenwich Village's Episcopal Church of St. Luke in the Fields to hear the unstoppable ensemble merrily belt out its very own mix of time-honored crowd-pleasers and exciting new additions that never fails to lift up everybody's spirits, regardless of whatever else is going on the world and, let's face it, a lot of not so good stuff has been going on lately.
So after getting into the spirit of winter earlier in the week with Music Mondays' Music of the North program, I was very much looking forward to my one and only  and eager  concession to holiday music of the season on Saturday afternoon. That is, of course, if you exclude the three different versions of "Jingles Bells" I had already had to grit my teeth through on a subway train (four a cappella singers), at Columbus Circle (lone saxophone) and inside the Time Warner Center (jazz recording).

Because Cantori is not your typical choir, they did not kick off their holiday concert with a typical Christmas piece, but with Elliot Levine's "Al Hanissim", a highly melodic, irresistibly infectious Hebrew tune that not only reminded us that music is a universal language that transcends pretty much everything, but that Hanukkah is around the corner too.
The other Hebrew songs of the program were the "Banu Choshech" by former Cantori member Alice Dryden, which sounds more delightful year after year, as well as "Mi Zeh Hidlik" and "Boruh Ate, Zingt der Tate", two immediately engaging works for which the ladies of Cantori joined the special young guests of the evening, the Every Voice Concert Choir.
Scheduled to have their moment in the spotlight right after intermission, the youth choir brought their bright faces, sweet voices, and proud family members filming on their smartphones all over the audience, to the celebration. They completed their endearing short set with more traditional fare such as "Kling, Glöckchen, Kling" from Germany and "Donkey Carol" from England.
The spirit of Christmas was also very much alive and well with Cantori gamely performing the usual suspects, including the hopelessly sentimental classics "This Christmas Night", "I'll be home for Christmas" and "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas", and the peskily perky carols "Deck the Hall", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and, reigning supreme above them all, "Jingle Bells". And it is to Cantori's immense credit that they unfailingly make those endlessly reheated songs not only edible, but fresh and fun too.
Among this Christmassy feast, a few exceptional goodies definitely stood out for me due to their masterful composition (Rachmaninoff's "Bogoroditse Devo" and Biebl's all-male "Ave Maria"), blazing interpretation (Moses Hogan's "Glory, Glory, Glory" and The Wassail Song) or personal childhood memories (G. R. Woordward's "Shepherds in the Fields Abiding").
The concert was concluded with the traditional "Silent Night" sing-along, during which the audience is invited to join Cantori's singers for the first and third verses, while the third one was sung by the choir alone and, maybe because they really wanted to make sure we would not unexpectedly join in, in German.
Last, but not least, the festivities, which included a raffle at intermission, ended with the reliably lively reception during which artists and audience members heartily partied away. Happy holidays!

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