Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chamber Chorus to Offer 'Wonder upon Wonder' in Concert

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Chamber Chorus to Offer 'Wonder upon Wonder' in Concert

Article excerpt

"O magnum mysterium,

et admirabile sacramentum,

ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,

jacentem in praesepio.

Beata Virgo, cujus viscera

meruerunt portare

Dominum Christum.


("O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the Lord born, lying in a manger. Blessed maiden, whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord. Alleluia.")

All you who have reached the Fourth Sunday in Advent with a severe case of jingle-itis, brought on by an overdose of commercial Christmas music that started sometime in late October, fear not. The annual Christmas concert by the acclaimed St. Louis Chamber Chorus is at hand, to remind you of what the season and its music are really all about.

This year's concert, "Wonder Upon Wonder Will Arrive to Me," to receive two performances at Second Presbyterian Church in the Central West End, takes its title from a line in poet Emily Dickenson's "Before the Ice is in the Pools." That poem also provides the title and half the text for the concert's newly commissioned work.

The other half is "O Magnum Mysterium," a responsorial prayer from the traditional Christmas Matins. Artistic director Philip Barnes has included six different settings of the text, by a series of very different composers, placed between movements of Toms Luis de Victoria's late 16th century Mass setting, based on his own motet.

"The whole thing is intended to be an antidote to the saccharine Christmas by which we're surrounded every year," says Barnes. "I was trying to get away from the sentimentalizing of the season, and trying to get back to the mystery of the whole thing."

"O Magnum Mysterium" proved to be a key to that. "That text has proven, at least in recent years, to be powerful," he says. "There are many more settings (from) the 20th and 21st centuries than in previous centuries; there are really not many (early ones) besides the Victoria. I thought it would be interesting to put together different takes on the whole thing."

The SLCC's mission is "not only to entertain, but to educate and inspire," and that Barnes notes, means performing great works of the musical canon. Victoria's Mass is "one of the top three of the Renaissance," and, he says, "it's important for it to be heard."

Barnes has prepared a new performing edition of it for this concert. "When you sing these pieces as a chorister in the choir, you don't really question the edition you're given," he says. "But when you do some research, you find that a lot of things the dynamics, when there's a solo and when things are sung by the full choir are not in the original, but are entirely editorial. The edition we did before is from a time, the 1960s, when (an editor) went in and broke them up to make them more interesting."

Barnes thinks he's found a still more interesting, and at least as authentic, way to do it: as a double-choir piece. …

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