Sat, 02 Jan 2021
Canzona, directed by Theresa Caudle: The Sprit of Christmas, Church of the Ascension, Burghclere, on Friday, December 18
Review by Charles Medlam
IT is now some 10 months since the Government put our cultural life on hold. Many large institutions have found ways to derive revenue from their performances, but it’s a tough time for the smaller groups.
With laudable enterprise, Burghclere musician Theresa Caudle has taken the bit between her teeth and, in spite of the many constraints, now puts on courses in her music room and concerts in her local church.
The first of these concerts took place just before Christmas with soprano Philippa Hyde and a quartet of strings plus chamber organ.
We were served a baroque banquet of contemplative and festive gems by a group of musicians completely in tune with the style and ethos of the period. Both Torelli and Corelli wrote a Christmas concerto with the characteristic lilting ‘pastorale’ (like the one in Messiah) in imitation of the local ‘piffari’, bagpipers from the Abruzzi hills near Rome. Torelli’s shepherds were suitably folksy, Corelli’s more regal, bringing considerable atmosphere to the beautiful central slow movement.
Between them Philippa Hyde sang an aria from Bach’s cantata 133, rejoicing in the news of Jesus’ birth, her voice a perfect match for the baroque instruments in scale, colour and flexibility.
Two favourites from Handel’s Messiah followed: Rejoice greatly, with impressive coloratura from the soloist, and I know that my redeemer liveth, with some arresting quiet moments.
Alessandro Scarlatti, less famous in our century than his son Domenico, wrote a Christmas cantata every year for the Vatican, of which only two survive. In this later of the two, Bethlehem is declared fortunate to be chosen for the birth of our saviour.
After an aria of praise for the virgin, we observe the baby, braving the cold for us all in his swaddling clothes (beautiful ‘pampers’ moments from the musicians).
Finally some peasants, who are lucky enough to witness the momentous event, dance out their jubilation (those bagpipes again) with a text comparing God’s newly arrived lamb to one of their own.
What a joy to hear this gorgeous piece, encompassing all aspects of the season.
It was wonderful to experience live music again – a memorably Christmassy evening.
All praise to those responsible.
YouTube link to the concert: https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UCTneC3XuPCeijNIUDw_Py1Q/featured