32nd Annual Christmas Festival
9 December 2017, 18.30
Carols by Candlelight
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 settings by John Rutter, Vaughan Williams, John Gardner, David Willcocks, John Dankworth and many more. Enjoy both classics and new favourites, and plenty of audience participation.
10 December 2017, 19.30
A New College Christmas
Join the choristers, clerks and organists for an inspiring journey through Advent to Christmas: from traditional seasonal melodies to more recent favourites, via the exuberant splendour of the French and German Baroque.
11 December 2017, 19.30
Written to display the full splendour of his art to the congregation in Leipzig, Bach’s Magnificat is performed here by the much-lauded Vox Luminis under director Lionel Meunier.
This seminal and popular work is performed tonight with another Magnificat by Bach’s predecessor at St Thomas’ Church, Johann Kuhnau.
Pachelbel provides the perfect opener to this concert with an animated setting of Psalm 100, Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt ‘Shout for joy to the Lord’.
12 December 2017, 19.30
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 best-loved and most 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 2017, 19.30
Heigh Ho Holiday: Christmas Revels in 17th-century London
This concert represents festive music and song as played by the civic band of waits whose traditional duties included playing for the singing of carols around the streets of the city. The London waits were “excellent and expert musitians” who performed for masque, theatre, civic ceremony and in church, also giving regular public concerts.
14 December 2017, 19.30
Christmas Music by Candlelight: an atmospheric programme of music and readings.
In the deep, still darkness, only candles pierce the winter gloom. And then, upon the silence, comes the luminous sound of a choir in harmony. With a sequence of Christmas music old and new, and readings to make you smile and reflect, Ex Cathedra's popular Christmas concert is a uniquely magical way to begin your festive season.
Described as "one of Britain's very best choirs" (New York Times), Ex Cathedra's concerts have become a popular annual tradition at St John's Smith Square's Christmas Festival, with seasonal favourites and the unexpected combining to create an atmospheric, meditative and joyful occasion.
15 December 2017, 19.30
The Lutheran Reformation, whose 500th anniversary we mark this year, stimulated the composition of countless new hymns, which sought to embody the new doctrine of the Lutheran faith, and to teach and instill it in the believers. Perhaps the most famous hymn to have been produced was Philipp Nicolai's 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme', composed in 1598, and normally sung during Advent.
Over the two hundred years following its composition, this hymn inspired numerous cantata settings, by composers including Praetorius, Weckmann, Telemann, Buxtehude, JS Bach, and JCF Bach. Each of these cantatas is adopts a radically different and highly creative take on Nicolai's original hymn. But the popularity of Bach's setting has pushed the rest into a shadow--even Telemann's is all but unknown today. In this programme, the Choir of King's College London presents these unique and wonderful cantatas back to back, tracking this Lutheran Advent over two centuries.
16 December 2017, 19.30
A Christmas Celebration
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 Jude Law, Sheridan Smith, Matt Lucas, Kerry Ellis, Eddie Redmayne and Idris Elba.
The National Youth Music Theatre represents the very best in work with young people through musical theatre, leading Andrew Lloyd Webber to dub it "the best youth music theatre in the world”.
17 December 2017, 19.30
Britten St Nicolas: Christmas with the LCS
The London Choral Sinfonia presents a concert of uplifting music for the festive season. The first half features familiar carols and Christmas tunes in new and exciting arrangements. The programme culminates with Britten’s epic Christmas cantata, Saint Nicolas.
18 December 2017, 19.30
Solomon’s Knot return to St John’s Smith Square to apply their gripping and virtuosic approach to JS Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor: a compendium of his ‘greatest hits’, assembled at the end of his life into a Mass for all people and all ages.
19 December 2017, 19.30
The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge and their director Graham Ross present a sumptuous Christmas programme in praise of the Virgin Mary and the coming of the light. Renaissance masterpieces, including Tallis's sublime Videte miraculum and Hieronymus Praetorius’s Christmas Magnificat (performed with its original interpolated carols) sit alongside more recent seasonal works, including much-loved motets by Howells, Britten, Tavener, and Rutter, two world premières by Joshua Pacey and Graham Ross, and some highly-catchy arrangements guaranteed to put you in the festive mood. A perfect start to the Christmas season.
20 December 2017, 19.30Gaude Gloriosa
Our programme contains three blockbusters of the renaissance repertoire. Performances of Tallis's Gaude gloriosa, written in praise of the Virgin, are rare because of its technical challenges, for which it remains a pinnacle of the English renaissance repertoire.
Taverner's 6-voice Magnificat is not far behind in terms of difficulty, building on the uniquely embellished style of the Eton Choirbook. This style is on full display in Browne's Stabat juxta, scored for the most unusual combination of four tenors and two basses. Add the Josquin and Sheppard items, chosen for their seasonal texts, and you have an extraordinarily powerful survey of renaissance writing.
22 December 2017, 19.30Bach Christmas Oratorio
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 Bach's Christmas Oratorio, Parts 1, 2, 3, 6. Stephen Layton conducts and they are joined by four outstanding soloists.
23 December 2017, 19.30Handel Messiah
Stephen Layton again returns to St John's for his annual "thoroughly modern" performance of Handel's Messiah 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 Anna Dennis 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.