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December 15, 2004

King's College choir brings light, heat to cold night

Pioneer Press (MN):

When it comes to hot tickets on the local classical music scene this year, few have been as hot as those for Monday's concert by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, a group that has been the standard-bearer for the English choral tradition for 550 years. But other factors added to the precious nature of this ticket: The group is visiting over the holidays, and listening to its annual "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" broadcast is a Christmas tradition for many. Throw in the fact that the group is performing only six U.S. concerts, and you had lovers of classical music clamoring to get inside the Cathedral of St. Paul on Monday.

Those who secured one of these hot tickets on a frigid night, the Choir of King's College more than lived up to its sterling reputation. Smoothly blending the voices of 16 boys and 15 men, the ensemble showed its sublime skills on a program of modern carols with a traditional touch. Director Stephen Cleobury and the group spent most of the evening in the 20th century, opening with a version of Francis Poulenc's "Four Christmas Motets" that bore echoes of Gregorian chant, but found bright hues where other choirs may have lingered in darkness.

The highlight of the evening came when the men left the singing to the boys on Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols." Accompanied by renowned harpist Alison Nicholls, the 16 choristers proved everything you could wish for in a collection of young voices, especially so on the haunting soprano solo of "That Yonge Child" and a duet of two high, crystalline voices on "Spring Carol."

The concert's second half was almost equally arresting, concluding a collection of contemporary carols with Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on Christmas Carols," a work that spotlighted a bass with a commanding voice. And the group's final encore, "And So Lord Jesus Quickly Come" by Paul Manz the longtime music director at Minneapolis' Mount Olive Lutheran Church proved a moving farewell and a nice acknowledgment from one of the world's most respected choirs that the Twin Cities area has a fine choral tradition of its own

Posted by acapnews at December 15, 2004 12:19 AM