31st Annual Christmas Festival
9 December 2016, 19.30
Choir Of King’s College London
The Choir of King’s College London returns to St John’s Smith Square, this time to celebrate the music traditions of the Orthodox Church. The choir will perform John Tavener’s Ikon of the Nativity and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil.
Tavener’s Ikon uses fourth-century text from St Ephrem of Syria, addressing the mystery of the Incarnation. More typically known as Vespers, Rachmaninoff’s composition draws on the sounds of Orthodox worship – particularly the singing of chant and the ringing of bells, both of which permeate the work. Since its premiere in 1915, the All-Night Vigil has established itself as a work dear to choirs and audiences alike.
10 December 2016, 19.30
The Gesualdo Six
The Gesualdo Six are a vocal sextet specialising in the performance of renaissance polyphony, directed by Owain Park. Formed in March 2014 for a performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday, the ensemble has since gone on to perform numerous concerts around the UK, including two summer tours.
11 December 2016, 18.30
City of London Choir
The acclaimed City of London Choir ("freshness, bloom, attentive diction and a palpable heart" - Daily Telegraph) returns to St John’s Smith Square for its annual much-loved celebration of Christmas under the baton of Hilary Davan Wetton. Don’t miss this "carol concert with bells on" (in the words of The Guardian), featuring extracts from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, plus settings by John Rutter, John Gardner, David Willcocks, Peter Warlock, Howard Goodall and many more. Enjoy both classics and new favourites, and plenty of audience participation. A highlight of the year for adults and children alike (recommended minimum age 6 years).
12 December 2016, 19.30
Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, was founded just under 500 years ago by Thomas Wolsey and Henry VIII. Now world-famous in its own right for the excellence of its singing, the Choir tours worldwide and undertakes a prodigious recording schedule as well as singing daily in the Cathedral. Additionally, the Choir collaborates with a number of orchestras, recently recording Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem for EMI, which won a Classical Brit Award.
What better way to get into the festive spirit than with this programme of some of the most-loved and beautiful Christmas music ever written, performed by one of the greatest cathedral choirs in the world. The concert is presented by Howard Goodall in informative and entertaining festive form.
13 December 2016, 19.30
The Choir of Merton College, Oxford
The Choir of Merton College’s programme contrasts two polychoral masterpieces from the Renaissance period with Poulenc’s popular Christmas motets, and a sequence of well-known carols by Darke and Rutter amongst others.
The concert opens with Hieronymus Praetorius’s setting of the Magnificat on the fifth tone. Just as fun and entertaining is Victoria’s rarely heard Missa Pro Victoria, based on a chanson by Jannequin.
14 December 2016, 19.30
The Cardinall's Musick
The Virgin Mary has long inspired great music from great musicians.
This programme features music from four of the greatest Renaissance composers – Lassus, Victoria, Byrd and Palestrina. The sumptuous erotically-titled Missa Osculetur me (kiss me!) takes its inspiration from the Song of Songs (a book often used for texts in honour of the Virgin) and Lassus relishes the sonorities of eight voices talking in dialogue. Interspersed are more modest motets by Victoria which are full of finely judgements.
The second half includes an entire sequence of music for the Mass of the Nativity of the Virgin (8 September) by William Byrd interspersed with plainsong. Three less well known pieces by three Spanish masters begin the half but the Italian giant Palestrina has the last word and is seen at his most ebullient in his eight-voice Magnificat primi toni for eight voices, obviously designed for a grand celebration.
15 December 2016, 13.05
La Nativité du Seigneur is one of Olivier Messiaen’s most evocative and beautiful cycles tracing the nativity of Jesus. Written in 1935, the first Christmas story is recounted in nine exquisite meditations in which the Shepherds, Angels and Wise Men are centre stage in this vivid and awesome masterpiece.
15 December 2016, 19.30
A selection of Christmas music from Away in a Manger to MacMillan.
Aimed at the heart of Christmas, these atmospheric concerts have become a popular annual tradition at St John’s Smith Square. A seamless stream of music brings old favourites, stunning new music, and hidden gems, all interspersed with readings that capture the meaning − and humour − of the season.
Ex Cathedra is a leading UK choir, with a repertoire that reaches from the 12th to the 21st centuries. It is known for its passion for seeking out the best, the unfamiliar and the unexpected in the choral repertoire and its dynamic performances.
16 December 2016, 19.30
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge
On the eve of the week before Christmas, Graham Ross and the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge return to the Christmas Festival with a sumptuous programme of music for the last week in Advent and the birth of the Christ child on Christmas Day.
The 9th century ‘O’ Antiphons of Advent are heard alongside favourites by Bach, Praetorius and Mendelssohn, lesser-known masterpieces by Mouton, Maxwell Davies and Grainger, and a ravishing selection of Christmas arrangements by Judith Weir, John Rutter, Graham Ross, Richard Allain, Nigel Short and Andrew Carter.
The Choir’s newest recording, Mater ora filium: Music for Epiphany, the eighth release in their highly-acclaimed series of music for the church year for Harmonia Mundi, will be available for sale at the concert.
17 December 2016, 19.30
National Youth Music Theatre
This year the National Youth Music Theatre celebrates its fortieth anniversary. Since 1976 the company has produced over 80 musical theatre works of which 50 have been especially commissioned, including pieces from Alan Ayckbourn, Richard Stilgoe, Howard Goodall and Charles Hart, Richard Taylor, Jake and Pippa, Dougal Irvine and Benjamin Till. The company has performed at The National Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, The Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, on Broadway and in the West End.
18 December 2016, 19.00
Celebrate the yuletide season with a wonderful selection of arrangements which are a musical breath of fresh air at Christmas. This programme heralds the talents of brilliant English composers, including arrangements by Jonathan Rathbone and Simon Preston alongside traditional carols and heart-warming festive favourites.
19 December 2016, 19.30
La Nuova Musica was founded by its artistic director David Bates in 2007 whilst in residency at Snape Maltings, with the aim of harnessing the energy that the Baroque demands of its performers as a potent tool in striving to move audiences.
20 December 2016, 19.30Holst Singers & City of London Sinfonia
City of London Sinfonia celebrate their heritage of performing and recording English music with this concert inspired by this country’s folk-songs and traditional Yuletide tales. Featuring Vaughan Williams’ evergreen Fantasia on Christmas Carols and This is the Truth Sent from Above, choral pieces from around the English countryside including Warlock’s Bethlehem Down and Stephen Cleobury’s Shropshire Carol, with Christmas tales from Dickens and our other great story-tellers. Alongside this, we invite you to sing along with the City of London Sinfonia and Holst Singers in carols chosen by the audience to ensure you don’t miss out on your own Christmas favourites!
21 December 2016, 19.30The Tallis Scholars
The Hodie Christus natus est (Today Christ is born) of de Rore’s motet is self explanatory. Less obvious is the explicit reference to Christ’s birth in Praeter rerum seriem, and the more general praise of the Virgin in the words of the Magnificat, Salve Regina and O splendor gloriae.
The music in this programme features a major renaissance mass-setting, which not only pays homage to Mary, but also to the duke of Ferrara, Hercules, whose name is continuously woven into the counterpoint.
22 December 2016, 19.30Bach Mass in B Minor
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.
After the sell-out success of its recent Christmas Festival performances, the Choir again joins forces with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for the Mass in B minor, one of Bach’s greatest choral works. Stephen Layton conducts and they are joined by four outstanding soloists.
23 December 2016, 19.30Handel Messiah
A very special performance of Handel’s Messiah on Stephen Layton’s fiftieth birthday: the perfect way to begin your Christmas celebrations. The virtuoso players of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment join Polyphony and a stunning line-up of soloists for “the best performance of Handel’s great work that we have ever heard” MusicOMH.
Join a festive celebration of Stephen Layton’s 50th birthday at our post-concert mulled wine and mince pies reception! Post-concert celebrations tickets are £20.00.
London SW1P 3HA