The Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble will give two performances of a Festival of Lessons and Carols. Anthems, carols, and hymns illuminate the Christmas story along with community readers and congregational singing in the beloved tradition of King's College, Cambridge:
-Saturday December 16th at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter's Church in Plattsburgh
-Sunday, December 17th at 4:00 p.m. at St. Agnes Church in Lake Placid
NAVE, under the musical direction of Andrew M. Benware, is a mixed chamber choir of professional and amateur singers that performs choral music from a variety of periods and styles with harmonies of four to eight parts.
NAVE's membership is truly indicative of its nomenclature, “Northern Adirondack,” being comprised of membership from points in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties.
Distinct from other choral groups in our region, NAVE is essentially an a cappella chamber choir focusing on the rich and historical repertoire composed specifically for chamber choir unaccompanied by instruments.
NAVE's Festival of Lessons and Carols follows the traditional model of those performed annually on Christmas Eve (since 1928) at King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England. The customary format is built around nine short Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments that trace the story of the fall of humanity and the promise of a Messiah to the birth of Jesus. Anthems, carols, and hymns are liberally interspersed throughout to musically illuminate the narrative.
NAVE will again vary the musical palette from previous performances while maintaining several congregational hymns and beloved anthems.
The program will open with a nod to the King's College annual program by having a solo soprano voice intone "Once in Royal David's City," joined in later verses by the congregation and organ. The traditional Irish "Wexford Carol" next outlines the plot of the Christmas narrative as a sort of overview of the story to come, here portrayed by solo and soli voices underscored by vocal accompaniment in undulating neutral syllables complete with a violin prelude and postlude.
Two pieces with references to the Virgin Mary comprise a sort of Marian set in the program: John Rutter's "Ave Maria" and a setting of "Spotless Rose" by contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjelo. While both pieces employ legato vocal lines and aurally accessible melodies, they stand distinct from one another.
Rutter sets the Ave Maria in a rollicking 5/8 asymmetric meter with melodic fragments being transferred throughout each vocal line in a variety of implied tonal centers. Rutter composed this work in honor of Lydia Smallwood, a beloved member of the Cambridge choral community. After a private performance in her honor, friends and family members convinced Rutter that he should make the piece widely available. While last year's program featured another setting of "Spotless Rose" by British composer Herbert Howells, this program will include the same text, sung in Norwegian, and set by Ola Gjelo. Known for his lush compositional style utlizing accessible, if thickly scored harmonies, Gjelo remains true to this description in this particular work whose lyrics speak of "ancient seers" fortelling the springing forth of a "Blessed Babe" from "Mary, purest Maid."
Early music will retain a featured role in the program, this time showcasing Thomas Stoltzer, a lesser-known composer of the German Renaissance.
Active as a priest, as well as a secret supporter of the Reformation, Stoltzer's compositional output approaches 150 works, none of which are known to have been published during his lifetime. "O Admirabile Commercium" is a new text for NAVE, speaking of an "admirable exchange" in which the "creator of mankind" would take on a "living body" by being born of a Virgin, thereby giving us His
"deity in abundance." While not harmonically complex, the interest lies in the artful use of the five voice parts which weave around and through one another with frequent voice crossings, echoed fragments, and great variety of vocal texture.
The German carol "In Dulci Jubilo" has been a staple in the Christmas repertoire for centuries, having been adapted for a myriad of instrumentations and ensembles.
This arrangement, by R. LPearsall, dates to the early 1800s and is delivered in a style known as macaronic in which the text is sung in a mixture of Latin and the vernacular - English. Each verse is scored slightly differently, ranging from full choir to three-part textue, eight-part divisi, and a solo octet in the middle. The imagery of ringing bells is rather clearly portrayed through the brisk tempo and joyfully pealing vocal lines.
Other pieces of note include a traditional French carol, "Quelle est cette Odeur Agréable? (Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing?)," whose text portrays bewildered shepherds whose senses are stolen away by lovely fragrances and brilliant light unlike any flowering fields or previously seen morning skies - testaments to the overwheming transformation of creation through the birth of Christ. Wide melodic leaps are favored in this piece, and yet it retains a simplistic innocence in its delivery. A very different French carol, "Hush my Dear, Lie still and Slumber," is also included on the program. Arranged by Sir David Willcocks, this setting is in the minor mode and employs a variety of voicings including the separation of female and male choirs in the interior verses.
NAVE will once again pull from previous repertoire with the lesser-known 17th-Century carol "All my Heart this Night Rejoices," a stentorian anthem of blocked chords, composed in rather homo-rhythmic style. The use of such stable part-writing to declare words of hope, adoration, and wonder has the effect of leaving the listener filled with assurances of great comfort and joy.
North Country native and current doctoral candidate at the University of Notre Dame, Benjamin A. Stone will again accompany the congregational carols on the organ in his fifth collaborative performance with NAVE, having recently performed Durufle's Requiem at the Saranac Lake Methodist Church in 2016. Among these familiar Advent and Christmas hymns to be featured are "Come, O Long Expected Jesus," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Silent Night," "Hark. The Herald-Angels Sing," "As With Gladness Men of Old," and "O Come, All Ye Faithful."
Community members will read the texts, which include passages from Genesis, Isaiah, and the Gospels, as well as a contemporary poem, "Annunciation," by Denise Levertov.
Admission is a suggested donation of $10. For more information please find us on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wish I could be there, but we’re returning to CA for the holidays. I know it will be a wonderful performance.