There’s a clash of choirs as three perform on Dec. 3

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As the Christmas season approaches, every choral and chamber group in the region plans to appear at a concert hall, church or community gathering in hopes of drawing a big, celebratory crowd.

One of the biggest blocks of performances will occur on Sunday, Dec. 3 as Chorale Saint-Jean, Concordia Concert Choir and the University of Alberta’s top musicians ring in the holiday season.

O magnum mysterium
Chorale Saint-Jean
Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
McDougall United Church
10025 – 101 St.
Tickets: $15 to $20.  Call 780-420-1757 or at http://www.tixonthesquare.ca

Chorale Saint-Jean highlights their joie-de-vivre with a special presentation of two equally beautiful a cappella settings of O magnum mysterium. The different settings of the nativity text bridge four centuries of style and musicianship.

Artistic director Laurier Fagnan also includes a vast range of repertoire from Handel to Whitacre as well as a liberal sprinkling of carols from Estonia, Norway and Canada.

In addition to the spirited choir, special guests include violinist Jacques Forestier, accordionist Jason Kodie and the new children’s choir Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Jean.

Christmas Oratorio
University of Alberta Madrigal Singers, University of Alberta Concert Choir and the University of Alberta Symphony
Sunday at 3 p.m.
Winspear Centre
4 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Tickets: $10 to $20 at door (cash) or in advance at http://www.ualberta.ca/shows

If you are looking to enjoy the nativity in a Baroque style, look no further than Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachtsoratorium). Performed under the baton of Dr. Leonard Ratzlaff, about 140 of the University of Alberta’s top singers, soloists and musicians perform in unison as a cascade of joyful sounds fill the room.

The musicians dispatch four of Bach’s six liturgical cantatas with featured soloists Juno Award winning tenor John Tessier, Broadway soprano Sherry Steele and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Turnbull. The lower register’s  roles are split by bassist Rob Curtis and baritone Jihwan Cho.

“The cantatas were never meant to be done as a concert. They were church related pieces to be sung on different days. But they were collected to tell the story of Christ, the announcement of the birth, and the shepherds coming to the manger,” said Ratzlaff.

He noted that the university last showcased the Oratorio in 2000, the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death.

“It should be sung more often. It’s sung in German and not as popular as Messiah. I feel the Oratorio is very fine work. It doesn’t have the same popularity as Messiah, but for me it’s how the students learn from it. It’s also an extremely expressive, interpretative text.

Ratzlaff also sings praises for the balanced acoustics at Winspear Centre that add a layer of richness to anything performed in the hall.

“It beats sitting at home with ear buds. The sound surrounds you and when it’s done without a mike, it enhances the experience. This is exactly the material full of joy you would expect at a Christmas concert.

O Joyous Light
Concordia Concert Choir
Sunday at 3 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church
10041 – 81 Ave.
Tickets: $15 to $20 Call 780420-1757 or http://www.tixonthesquare.ca

Dr. Joy Berg, conductor of Concordia Concert Choir, first sang O Joyous Light many years ago as a singer with Pro Coro Chamber Choir. Berg loved the piece so much, she adapted it as this year’s anchor piece for the choir’s Christmas concert.

“It comes out of the orthodox liturgical tradition and refers to Christ as the light to the world, and the change for the world to come. It meant joy, peace and humanity. This is a representative piece for all our carols,” said Berg.

The 40-member choir will also sing major hymns and carols that are an expression of the season such as Felix Mendelssohn’s There Shall a Star and Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria.

On a lighter note, the choir also sings several carols that vary between a lullaby and more meditative notes to livelier expressions Berg said. They include the Dominican Republic’s Christmas is Coming, a rhythmic and melodic wag at the season, and then there’s the African-American gospel piece Walk in the Light.

Included in the repertoire is Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s A Spotless Rose is Growing, an older German hymn written to new music that has in recent years attracted a great deal of attention.

St. Albert soprano Keirra Vellow sings in the choir while Isabela Ramos, a solo handbell ringer gives a nimble dance with 25 instruments.

“This is a concert with lots of audience involvement and it’s very visually entertaining.”

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Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.