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Music of the first Christmas

What did the first Christmas music sound like? No-one knows, but local composer and teacher at St Bartholomew’s School James Maunders has an idea and now you have a chance to hear it right here in Newbury.

Newbury Chamber Choir’s Music for Advent is a Sunday afternoon concert which will be performed in the beautifully evocative atmosphere of St John's Church, Newbury, on Sunday at 4pm.

James Maunders is a fascinating Newbury-based composer with successes at home and abroad. Most recently he attended the premiere of his orchestral piece Badder Gyrations at the Sage Gateshead played by the Royal Northern Symphonia, the piece having been shortlisted for their Young Composers' Competition.

Yaldo, written this year especially for Newbury Chamber Choir, receives its premiere performance on Sunday.

Yaldo is an Aramaic word which means ‘the birth’ or ‘the nativity’ and the familiar Christmas story is told in a mixture of languages, passages of scripture and reflective hymns from the earliest days of the Church. James began with the earliest music we do know; the ancient music of the Syrian Orthodox church, music from the synagogue tradition, early mediaeval Greek and Latin chant, and the scales and folk tunes of the near East.

As the composer says “I figured there must be some shared ancestors to these different musical styles. I’ve attempted to draw out the common threads and synthesize a kind of new artificial folk tradition”. In Yaldo elements of jazz sit alongside folk-like dances and shimmering choral lines. The text draws on the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament which together with Aramaic hymns and folk tunes will create, so James hopes, the music of the first Christmas.

The concert features a double bill of mystical choral music celebrating the Nativity in which the contemporary energy of Yaldo will be contrasted with the Renaissance splendour of Tomas Luis De Victoria's Missa O Magnum Mysterium. The choir will be joined by an instrumental ensemble including flute, guitar, saxophone and percussion. Tickets are £15 (including tea and cake), £13 early bird (online only), school pupils free, available at www.newburychamberchoir.org or on the door.



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