“A Candlelight Christmas” on Dec. 5 began with the Georgetown Choral Society (GCS) walking down the aisles through the audience, holding flickering lights while the women hummed “O Come Emmanuel.” The sound was like a medieval convent of nuns at worship. It was a lovely, atmospheric start to a varied concert.
There was a good mix of familiar carol melodies and less-known works. There were even two sessions of audience participation, much like seventh-inning stretches at baseball games, to keep people alert and energized. The old singalong carols were made fun by chorister Jack Morrison, who demanded better efforts and unusual treatments, even putting director Dale Wood on the spot to sing a solo chorus of “Jingle Bells.”
Performance highlights were “Christmas Kum Ba Ya,” an interesting arrangement of English and African lyrics, part of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, sung in English as “Christians Be Joyful,” and “Carol of the Bells,” sung without organ accompaniment, sounding like a carillon of church bells. A significant work was a composition of director A. Dale Wood, “What Could I Give to This Stranger?” a beautiful new carol on the old theme of a gift worthy of the Christ child. Finally, Händel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” ended the concert, but not quite, as the choir sang a final work by candlelight.
My favourite piece of the night was their “Go Where I Send Thee,” a rollicking gospel carol. I’ve said before that it’s quite a stretch to get middle-aged white men and women to perform gospel well, but they did a great job of this. I suppose it’s best not to push the swayin’ and rockin’ throughout if it doesn’t feel right. It may even have made for a more dramatic surprise with the rhythmic clapping and foot stomping at the end. This is a real crowd pleaser that I hope they’ll perform frequently.
And some pretty amazing news is that GCS has been invited to perform in Lincoln Center, New York City on Jan. 18, 2010. They’ll perform Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man,” which they performed last spring in Norval. If you can be in New York at that time, try to get tickets to this.
Did you catch this performance? What other concerts are you enjoying?