by Kevin T McEneaney
Last Sunday afternoon at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lakeville, CT, Crescendo Vocal Ensemble, directed by Christine Gevert, presented a program of traditional Christmas carols ranging from the sixteenth century to the present with nearly forty singers singing in Latin and English to a capacity audience. This was a music concert where voice was the principal instrument, accompanied by director Christine on organ, Tricia Van Oers on various recorders, Douglas Schmolze (who also sang in the choir) on guitar, and Christopher Belluscio on trumpet, that essential instrument of the Christmas season.
Opening with “O nata lux” by Thomas Tallis, they moved on to “Rorate Caeli desuper” by William Byrd, then a similar short piece by Salomone Rossi of Mantua. Having evoked the universal European language of the period, they transitioned to English carols, several of which were traditional Latin songs with new lyrics by Californian Sophia Green which retained the lyrical thrust of the Latin harmonies while delivering reverent but non-denominational lines relevant to the times we now live in, especially ecology, birth of a child, and universal peace.
Sonata in C by Godfrey Finger, a wandering, Baroque, Moravian composer showcased young Tricia on recorder with her expertly fingered nuance and tone as Christine rhythmically intoned the genial spirit of the piece while Christopher delivered the climatic conclusion on trumpet.
The program prolifically offered many short pieces, all ranging from one to three stanzas, moving chronologically to the present. The highlights were supplied from Sophia Green’s collection of new lyrics from Carols for the Earth, the title of this concert. These wonderful new lyrics were sung to the tunes of “Yuletide, bless us,” “Adeste Fidelis,” “The first Nowell,” “Hark! The herald angels sing.”
They sang a few short works by Eliot Z. Levine about Hanukkah, the festival of lights, in Hebrew which were festive, particularly the charming folk song of a child spinning a dreydl.
The conception of this ambitious program by visionary director Christine Gevert and the dexterous rehearsals of a choir that sang so magnificently in a variety of languages offered a menu not to be found anywhere else in our region of the country. The audience vigorously sang new lyrics for several old tunes.
Other current, original hymns by Oliver Barton, Tim Porter, and Frank Ticheli inhabited the zeitgeist we dwell in and the spirit in which we would like to move forward as a community. The combination of new hymns, new lyrics to favorite old tunes, and recent, original Christmas season songs provided a new overcoat for an old tradition, yet it was the variously layered singing of sopranos, tenors, mezzo-sopranos, and bass singers that melded melodies into a harmonious communal Christmas bow that well-earned fulsome applause from the audience as the choir took their thunderous bow!