100 Voices Singing Glorious Hymns

Bel Canto concert mixes seasonal favorites with world premiere of work by local composer.

By - Dec 8th, 2016 03:22 pm
Bel Canto Chorus. Photo from Bel Canto Chorus website.

Bel Canto Chorus. Photo from Bel Canto Chorus website.

The Bel Canto Chorus will offer its annual Christmas Season concert at Saint Josaphat’s Basilica on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Stained Glass Brass and organist Kevin Bailey will join the Bel Canto in the program. Familiar carols, soaring hymns, and music are all a part of this festive concert for all ages.

This concert has become a Christmas tradition. A 2012 performance taped by MPTV in 2012 is available to watch on YouTube. But the video concert hardly replaces the immersive experience of a great chorus in a grand space. With a chorus of about 100 voices, the sound fills the hall. The highly resonant acoustics enhance the glorious Christmas music – an ideal setting for chorus, organ and brass.

Christian Ellenwood. Photo from Ellenwood's website.

Christian Ellenwood. Photo from Ellenwood’s website.

The concert will feature the world premiere of a work by Christian Ellenwood. A local composer and clarinetist, Ellenwood has composed a substantial body of work. His website offers a pleasant introduction to his compositions. Each page incorporates samples of his music. The music has a pleasant, deeply romantic aura.

His new work, Love Came Down at Christmas, selects texts from English poet Christina Rossetti. Ellenwood observes that “Her poems express the complexities, contradictions, and simultaneous dualities that accompany almost every moment of life and living.  She juxtaposes darkness and light, chillness and warmth, mundanity and transcendence, wonder and danger—and shows us that these things are not opposites; they are unities within the multiple dimensions of human experience.”

Music Director Richard Hynson reflects on Ellenwood’s composition. “He has found true connection with the poetry of Christina Rossetti in this remarkable, three-movement setting for soprano solo, mixed chorus, brass, timpani, and organ. Like Rossetti, Ellenwood is a true romantic. His music amplifies Rossetti’s lyric use of language. He sets three of her Christmas poems’ tender, transcendent sentiments with his own hauntingly elegiac melodies.”

You can hear the Bel Canto concert three times:  Friday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 11 at 3:30 p.m. Saint Josaphat’s Basilica is located at 601 W. Lincoln Ave., Milwaukee 53215. Tickets range from $29 to $60.50 with senior discounts and substantial discounts for students. They may be purchased online, in person at 158 N. Broadway, Floor 3 and by phone at 414-481-8801, extension 1. Bel Canto’s website offers a detailed map of nearby free parking.

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