The weather had been good during the day and the church community had enjoyed a good fete, accompanied by a brass band. So the evening was not too cold at 7pm, the start time. Indeed, the church was almost filled to capacity with an appreciative audience.
They choir began with their theme song, written by Jen some seven years ago – Cantamus Cantabile. No choral concert would be complete without including something by the prolific John Rutter, so they began with his Dancing Day, a traditional Christmas song he arranged. This was followed by Charles Villiers Stanford’s beautiful setting of Mary Coleridge’s short poem: The Blue Bird. Alicia Muddle sang the solo soprano line.
Over a decade ago, when Jen was in a choir in Lee on Solent, one of her fellow choristers was Peter Wilson, who composed a Requiem as well as many other works for their choir. He gave her permission to use his Here’s a Baby, a Christmas song in the Caribbean style.
Here in Spain we’ve met a host of nationalities all who tend to rub along together. So it seemed apt for Jen to feature a piece by Jay Althouse and Sally Albrecht, I am a Small part of the World. Jan Robson sang the soprano solo.
Two solos followed. The first was written by Francesco Durante, who was born in Naples in 1684 and was considered one of the best church composers of his time; he only ever wrote sacred music. His song Virgin May, Fount of Love is a prayer by a sinner who begs for compassion and grace. Margaret Jennings sang this, Vergin Tutto Amor in Italian.
Pat Yardley chose to sing a traditional Russian song with the rather unassuming title of Polka a la Russe; however, she has renamed it more appropriately as The Little Russian Snow Girl, and she sang it unaccompanied.
Following immediately was Andrew Carter’s setting of a traditional French melody, A Maiden Most Gentle.
John Rutter’s Distant Land was next. Among his hundreds of works are carols, choral pieces, anthems, a Requiem, a Magnificat, a Mass to the Beatles, no less, and a concerto.
American composer John Peterson, as prolific as Rutter, has written over a thousand songs and 35 Cantatas. From his Christmas Cantata, Born a King, the choir sang Born a King, with Pat Yardley singing the introduction, and this was followed immediately by his Hail to Thee.
Two more solos followed: the prayer Ave Maria from Verdi’s Otello, sung by Alicia Muddle, and then La Vergine degli Angeli from Verdi’s La Forza del Destino was sung by Jennifer.
Then the choir sang a piece by American musical director and teacher Michael Clawson, expertly and intriguingly combining two pieces: The First Noel and Pachelbel’s Canon (which has sold over 600,000 copies).
Maintaining the winter ambiance, the choir sang Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind by John Purifoy and The Snow, a beautiful piece written by Sir Edward Elgar to words by his wife Alice.
Back in 2008, Jen was asked to write a carol for Cantabile. Quite a task; which part of the Christmas Story should she go for, it’s all so wonderful: the annunciation, no room at the inn, shepherds, ox and ass, wise men, the flight into Egypt? Too hard to choose, so she opted for the whole thing: Nativity!
The concert concluded with Handel’s Joy to the World, also sung by the audience.
There was a retiring collection for the upkeep of the church.
An excellent night for all concerned.