by Rick Winterson (Photos by Teresa DeAmicis)
Last Sunday afternoon, December 23, “A Christmas Celebration” took place in the Gate of Heaven Church. It featured the singing of the Choir of St. Paul’s Church, which is located at the beginning of Mt. Auburn Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge. The Choir is an integral part of the St. Paul’s Choir School, a middle school for boys that trains them as choir singers. When trained in singing, and then combined with adult voices, the Choir can sing complex and challenging choral works of great beauty. Their works include many Christmas songs and carols. Such was their presentation of “A Christmas Celebration” this last Sunday.
John Robinson was the Director; Jeremy Burns provided the organ accompaniment. Stephanie Scogna performed the solo soprano parts in many of the Sunday concert’s pieces. It was literally a flawless performance, filled to the brim with Christmas melodies and carols from many cultures, here and in Europe. The 90-minute concert flew by.
Among the high points, at least to this listener, were the two Catalan carols. They both were highly rhythmic, almost to the point of being “catchy”, and were filled with the joy of this Season. Catalan is the area in Northeastern Spain, which is centered around Barcelona and wants to secede from Spain. The Catalan language actually sounds more like French than Spanish. Fr. Tom Olson sang tenor with soprano Stephanie Scogna in the lilting “Christmas Bell Carol” – definitely another high point.
There were a number of more modern carols and songs performed, many by composers who lived in the 20th Century. These were connected in an interesting way with many older works, but they were recognizably Christmas compositions. Overall, the audience in Gate of Heaven came to hear and were enthralled by the boys’ voices. They not only sang beautifully, but their diction was outstanding. Unlike many choirs, the pronunciation by the young singers was easily understandable. “A Christmas Celebration” ended by bringing it home. The next-to-last song was “Jingle, Bells” from the foreign territory of Medford, Mass., where the composer James Pierpont was born and brought up. But there is a possibility that he wrote after moving to Savannah, Georgia.
The final song in “A Christmas Celebration” was “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, written (in Latin) by John Francis Wade in the 1700s, which was sung by everyone – all four verses, after which there was a reception in the Gate of Heaven Hall.
Let’s hope St. Paul’s comes back next year.