The Vancouver Cantata Singers presented its 8th annual "Christmas Reprise" concert in the city's Holy Rosary Cathedral on Dec. 18th, 2010 to a packed sanctuary. The concert is always presented at 2:00 p.m. on the final Saturday before Christmas. It proceeds with a sense of quiet dignity for about 65 minutes, without applause, affording listeners a break from their hectic schedule, a time to contemplate while enjoying the beauty of a cappella singing in the peaceful sanctuary.
My thanks to Jesse Read for taking these photos for the choir (while being confined to the back balcony) and allowing me to share them in this way.
The day's noon Mass was finished shortly before 12:45, and the choir was given access to the sanctuary by 1:00 for some quick sound checks for the recording. This was also an opportunity to review where to stand, go over a few key passages of music, and get the vocal cords going smoothly. A few people managed to sneak in and grab seats before the doors were closed for our warm up and sound checks.
After the brief warm up, the choir left to finish dressing and begin its long wait until the call to go onstage. Just before exiting, Maestro Eric paused to watch in amazement as the audience poured into the sanctuary; David completed taping his cords for the recording.
The concert opened with the men singing the medieval Advent antiphon transformed into the hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel". The verses were sung as in the original medieval 12th c. chant (but in English) and the refrain in four-part harmony was based on the 19th-c. hymn arrangement.
Having a capacity crowd meant that some folks had to sit behind large pillars on both sides, where you can hear, if not see everything. Of course, the concert really is about hearing.
Our chamber choir has 24 singers, equally balanced between men and women (12 + 12).
I particularly enjoyed singing Andrea Siemen's beautiful arrangement of "Let all mortal flesh keep silence" (my favourite song this season). Eric asked a quartet to sing the second verse.
"Verbum caro factum est" ('The word became flesh'), the Short Responsory for Christmas was sung as medieval chant from the three aisles as chant while the choir processed from the front to take up positions throughout the sanctuary before singing Biebl's incomparable "Ave Maria", which concludes each of our Christmas Reprise concerts.
We sang Biebl's Ave Maria from the three aisles, standing midway in the sanctuary (6 women--12 men--6 women).
After a heart-warming standing ovation, the audience joined the choir in singing "The first noël".
At the end of the concert, the singers were all able to bow. However, after feasting that evening on the turkey and ham prepared by Erika during the concert, and on a multitude of other dishes brought to the House of Hannan by the choir, few would have been able to bow gracefully . Some singers celebrated the day's successes into the early morning hours.