First there was the service of Nine Lessons and Carols with St John’s choir (with which I sing regularly). We held it early on December 8, so as not to clash with other churches on the weekends closer to Christmas, and also the landmark performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio by the ACO on December 15. (We wouldn’t want to steal any of their audience away – ha-ha.)
At St John’s, we pulled off some interesting newer works by Australian composers this year, notably Nativity by contemporary Sydney composer, Matthew Orlovich – a beautiful, atmospheric setting of a poem by James McAuley. Also Malcolm Williamson’s This Christmas Night, and two of my own carol arrangements: To Us In Bethlem City and Ding Dong Merrily On High.
The following week I attended the Christmas Oratorio performed by the Australian Chamber Orchestra with The Choir of London. What a rare treat to hear this entire work, comprising six cantatas, originally written by Bach for performance in Leipzig on six separate days during the Christmas season. The ACO, along with this excellent UK choir, performed the lot in a marathon session lasting nearly four hours (including a one hour interval). An amazing effort, maintaining their superb standard and precision for the duration, especially when a lot of the music was quite complex. They performed on period instruments, and the choruses with baroque trumpet and timpani were moments of pure joy. Bach at it’s best!
Finally, on December 21, I’ve been invited to join in with the choir of All Saints’ Church for their Nine Lessons and Carols service. They have a fine choir and a great musical tradition. Looking forward to it.