Celebrating Christmas with Music: Bosque Chorale presents glorious annual Christmas concert "The Many Moods of Christmas" in the BAC's Frazier Performance Hall Dec. 8
CLIFTON – Christmas is a glorious time in so many ways. Over the years audiences attending the Bosque Chorale Christmas concerts have had the joy and privilege to experience that gloriousness translated into exquisite music – whether it’s a Christmas Pops theme or the more spiritual songs in Agnus Dei.
This year, Maestro David Anavitarte returned to Bosque County for the 17th time to lead the 33 voices of the Chorale and full 27-musician Brazos Chamber Orchestra with Dr. Cameron Hoffman on piano in an exceptional, sold-out concert “The Many Moods of Christmas,” in the Frazier Performance Hall Dec. 8 at the Bosque Arts Center.
“The Many Moods of Christmas” is the result of a collaboration between one of the most accomplished vocal musicians Robert Shaw, and Robert Russell Bennett, a distinguished American composer/conductor/arranger, known for his orchestration of many Broadway and Hollywood musicals. The first recording of “Many Moods of Christmas” in 1963 included carols focusing on the birth and adoration of Jesus Christ.
Since September, under Anavitarte’s passionate and dedicated guidance, the Bosque Chorale rehearsed the medley of traditional and classic 18 Christmas carols. Set in four suites with contrasting songs, melodies and tempos, the concert brought out the absolute best in the chorale and the Brazos Chamber Orchestra. The Christmas trees and the red and green backlighting on the stage, the chorale in red and black enhanced the feeling that Christmas is just around the corner.
The marvelous mixture of well-beloved carols in superb arrangements, and the superior acoustics of the Frazier Performance Hall had the audience listening “In dulci jubilo” – in quiet delight – a line from the concert’s first song, “Good Christian Men, rejoice.”
The ensuing serene and solemn “Silent Night,” brought a change of mood and tempo; the delicate flutes bringing to mind snowflakes flitting about in the night, with the brass section being the cold winter winds. The following, vigorous Patapan brought another change of mood – a song about the birth of Jesus as described the shepherds playing the melody using simple instruments like drums and flutes. It was first published in 1720 in bourguignons French, originally titled as "Guillô, Pran Ton Tamborin" – Julio, take your tambourine.
It was Jerry and Diane Mobley’s first time to enjoy a Bosque Chorale concert, and they were amazed by the talent of the singers and the orchestra.
The chorale sublimely sang “Oh Come All Ye Faithful’s” first stanza in Latin with the reverent “Venite Adoremus, Dominum,” ending the carol with an explosive, impressive crescendo ending, leaving the listeners in awe.
“In my mind this was our very best concert ever,” Bosque Chorale member Marsha Brown said. She has been singing with the Chorale since its inception and believes Anavitarte’s drive and guidance brings the chorale to new heights every time. “Every season, Anavitarte hones us more, and we know better what he wants. I have sung in chorales all my life, and I still learn from every week we rehearse.”
Between suites, Anavitarte would wipe the sweat off his brow and neck, address the audience before throwing himself headlong into the next suite.
The concert included carols by the classical masters like Georg Frideric Handel’s “Joy to the World,” Felix Mendelsohn’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and Johan Sebastian Bach’s “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light.” A short intermission by the Brazos Chamber Orchestra brought an exalted Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” and gave the chorale a chance to rest their vocal cords.
The orchestra’s 27 musicians completely filled the floor between the first row of seats and the stage. Much to the audience’s delight, this moved Dr. Cameron Hoffman on the Bosque Arts Center’s beautiful Chickering grand piano more into the limelight than usual.
“Away in a Manger,” and “What Child is This?” were both so dignified, so sweet, so tender, conjuring up images of shepherds under a star-lit sky, on their way to welcome the babe. After which the hall exploded with the song with Catalan and French origins “Fum, Fum, Fum/March of Kings,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” respectively. Because of the mood and tempo twists, the concert kept the audience thrilled, delighted and engaged.
Most of the songs sung at Christmas are really Christmas hymns glorifying the birth of Jesus Christ, which over the years became staples of Christmas celebrations. But some of the songs from Thursday’s concert originated differently, like “Joy to the World, “March of Kings” and “Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella.”
These songs did not start as Christmas carols. “Joy to the World” is an interpretation of Psalm 98 and speaks of praise to God for His work of salvation rather than Christ’s birth. But over time it has become one of the most celebrated Christmas carols. “March of Kings” was sung by Provencal peasants honoring their warrior nobility coming or going in the Crusades. “Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella” – also of Provencal origins – was first considered dance music for French nobility.
Another song with an interesting back story is “I Saw Three Ships,” which mentions ships sailing into Bethlehem, but the nearest body of water is the Dead Sea about 20 miles away. The reference to three ships is believed to come from the three ships that carried the relics of the Biblical magi to Cologne Cathedral in the 12th century. Another possible reference is to Wenceslaus II, King of Bohemia, who bore a coat of arms "Azure three galleys argent." Another suggestion is that the ships are actually the camels used by the Magi, as camels are commonly referred to as "ships of the desert."
“I enjoyed it all,” Former BAC business manager Jane Scott said, unable to choose a favorite carol. “I liked the songs which included the orchestra, but also enjoyed the songs when there was only the choir. It is still amazing to me that we have this much talent around. It is particularly great to be able to hear really good classical music in our town.
From the beginning to the end this was a magnificent and glorious concert – from the In Excelsis Deo in “Angels We Have Heard on High” to the monumental “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly,” ending the concert on a spectacular high note – with music perfectly rejoicing the glorious spirit of the season.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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WOW! How very well you covered the Christmas Concert of the Bosque Chorale and the Brazos Orchestra. You pictured the scene with accuracy and joy. Thank you.