33rd Annual Christmas Festival
8 December 2018, 18.30
City of London Choir
Carols and seasonal music by Vaughan Williams, Tavener, Cecilia MacDowell, Willcocks, John Rutter and many more The acclaimed City of London Choir ("freshness, bloom, attentive diction and a palpable heart" - Daily Telegraph) returns to the St John's for its much-loved celebration of Christmas, accompanied by the sparkling brass and percussion of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Hilary Davan Wetton conducts.
Don't miss this "carol concert with bells on" (in the words of the Guardian), featuring settings by Vaughan Williams, John Tavener, Cecilia MacDowell, David Willcocks, John Rutter and many more. With classic carols, new favourites and plenty of audience participation, this is an annual highlight of the year for adults and children alike (recommended minimum age 6 years).
10 December 2018, 19.30
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford
Join the choristers of Christ Church Cathedral conducted by Steven Grahl.
11 December 2018, 19.30
The Brabant Ensemble
The Brabant Ensemble presents a programme in celebration of the Christmas season and focussing on the figure of Mary, Jesus’s Mother. The programme offers a variety of works by Franco-Flemish masters from Josquin Desprez to Orlandus Lassus, and features Josquin’s great contemporary Pierre de la Rue in the quincentenary year of his death. The ensemble also performs Christmas motets by the great figures of the mid-century, Clemens non Papa and Crecquillon, and the programme ends with Jean Mouton’s famous eight-voice Nesciens mater.
12 December 2018, 19.30
The English Concert
Famed for his operatic writing, Alessandro Scarlatti’s liturgical music has been shamefully overlooked. His skilful crafting of the Messa per il Santíssimo Natale, with double choirs and such variety of colour and texture, is enough to leave us searching the archives for even more treasures.
13 December 2018, 19.30
Sung by candlelight, Ex Cathedra's atmospheric Christmas concerts are aimed at the heart of the season and have become a very popular festival tradition. A seamless stream of music from best-loved favourites to hidden gems and stunning new works are complemented by a selection of readings, which together capture the meaning - and humour - of Christmas.
14 December 2018, 19.30
The Gesualdo Six
Composers have long been inspired by the time of Advent, with its wonder, reflection, and deep quiet. On their return to the Christmas Festival, The Gesualdo Six and Owain Park present a diverse selection of music, reaching across the ages. Centuries-old carols and the eternal beauty of the Tudor church combine with atmospheric contemporary works, each piece carefully chosen to evoke a sense of mystery and joy: the true meaning of Christmas.
15 December 2018, 19.30
National Youth Music Theatre Chorus, Alumni & Orchestra
Established in 1976, the National Youth Music Theatre's productions - including some 50 new commissions - have been seen throughout the UK and abroad, winning numerous accolades and awards. Over forty years the NYMT has had a huge cast and many have gone on to enrich the professional stage. Alumni include Michael Jibson, Lily James, Jude Law, Sheridan Smith, Matt Lucas, Kerry Ellis, Eddie Redmayne and Idris Elba.
16 December 2018, 15.00
Menotti Amahl and the Night Visitors
£25.00 (children under 11 £6.00)
Gian-Carlo Menotti’s much-loved Christmas opera was commissioned in America by the National Broadcasting Company and was broadcast in 1951 - the first-ever opera composed specifically for television. Menotti said that it “is an opera for children because it tries to recapture my own childhood”.
Amahl, a poor widow’s son, who can only walk with the help of a crutch, is amazed one evening to see a huge star hovering over their house. Three regally dressed strangers arrive and seek shelter for the night. For Amahl, these wondrous events lead to a miraculous healing and his own long journey to follow the star.
Bampton Classical Opera, whose discoveries of rare eighteenth-century opera have been a regular feature at St John’s over many years, now brings this memorable twentieth-century classic to the Christmas Festival in a new semi-staged production especially aimed at families and children.
17 December 2018, 19.30
Choir of New College Oxford
The Choir of New College Oxford is firmly established as one of the most acclaimed British choral ensembles. Celebrated for its distinctive sound, it embodies the splendour of the English choral tradition. Founded in 1379, the choir frequently performs in prestigious venues worldwide, and its versatility is reflected in its diverse core repertoire, with a particular scholarly focus on renaissance and baroque music.
19 December 2018, 19.30
London Choral Sinfonia
Beginning with Holst's marvellous fantasy on ancient carols, the concert features familiar carols and Christmas tunes in exciting and rarely-heard arrangements by Jonathan Rathbone, Elgar, Warlock, and Alec Rowley's frolicsome Christmas Suite for Orchestra. The programme also contains Harold Darke's famous In the Bleak Midwinter and traditional favourite, Silent Night.
20 December 2018, 19.30
The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and conductor Graham Ross return to St John’s Smith Square with a spectacular festive programme exploring the depths of winter warmed by the hope and joy of the Christmas story. Works old and new sit alongside one another, including Morales’ O magnum mysterium, Howells’ A spotless rose, John Rutter’s Dormi, Jesu, seasonal pieces by Praetorius, Tavener, Vaughan Williams, Barber, Sally Beamish, Roxana Panufnik, and many more. From Medieval chant and much-loved traditional carols to stunning new arrangements, this programme is guaranteed to make a perfect start to Christmas.
21 December 2018, 19.30
The Tallis Scholars
This seasonal programme is book-ended by two grand settings of the Magnificat for Double Choir. The first, by Hieronymous Praetorius, is extended beyond the normal liturgical text by two of the most famous Christmas carols, one sung as an antiphon, the other embedded between the Magnificat's verses. Equally focusing on the Virgin is Pärt's beautiful Virgencita which, as the title page states, is 'Dedicado a Ntra Señora de Guadalupe'.
22 December 2018, 19.30
Bach Christmas Oratorio Parts 1, 2, 3 & 6. The Choir of Trinity College Cambridge has established itself as one of the leading mixed-voice choirs in the world. In addition to singing the liturgy in the College Chapel, the Choir enjoys a programme of high-profile performances and recordings, international tours and regular broadcasts.
23 December 2018, 19.30
Baroque Christmas Around the World
Stephen Layton again returns for the "now-legendary performance" of Messiah by Polyphony and Stephen Layton at St John’s Smith Square with the "radiant young voices" of Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's "zestful strings" and "keen trumpets", with another "clutch of alluring soloists" this time including rising stars Katherine Watson and Helen Charlston alongside tenor Gwilym Bowen "a seraphic herald of good tidings: looking with golden curls like a Botticelli angel, his exquisitely gentle ‘Comfort ye’ (hanging) in the air like a beam of light" and bass Matthew Brook.