Sunday, December 13, 2015

Major Christmas cantata by McDowall performed at Arlington VA church today

Today, the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA held an advent music performance at the 11:15 AM service.

The main work was the cantata “Christus Natus Est” (“Christ Is Born”, 17 min) by Ceclia McDowall (1951- ).  Again, a major modern female composer, from Britain.
The work seems centered around the tonality of F Minor but the score (which I could see today) doesn’t have key signatures.  But the style resembles that of Ralph Vaughn Williams, with the louder, rowdier and more joyful works like “Hodie” as well as a little harmonic darkness (the Fourth Symphony)..

The text is in both Latin and English. One of the more controversial lines is “How should I a mother be That am to man a stranger?”

The performance included a brass and quintet and percussion.  I had never seen a tuba muffler used before.

The service also included, as an offertorium, a “Prelude on Puer Nobis Nascitur” by Paul Lindsley Thomas, with both Matthew Stensrud and Carol Feather Martin at the organ.  I’ve never seen four hands organ (at one instrument) before, even though it is common with piano.  (Latin translation: “To us a child is born.”)

The Postlude was another 4-hand piece on the organ, a “Flourish on ‘Joy to the World’” based on the carol by George Frederick Handel, transcription by Robert Hobby.

The Prelude was Carol Feather Martin’s own transcription of J.S. Bach’s “My Spirit Be Joyful.”

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