Annual Christmas Cantata This Sunday

December 17, 2021

This Sunday, December 19, APC’s Chancel Choir will present our annual Christmas Cantata, which this year will consist of Buxtehude’s Magnificat and Corelli’s Christmas Cantata. Read more about each piece below—both are exceptionally beautiful. We are also excited to welcome several guest musicians to the program: Stephanie Ball, Jessica Yothers, John Reid, and John Scherch to the choir; David Brown and Nina Vieru Zubaidi on violin; Elizabeth Mendoza on cello—and our very own Shirley Fishburne will play harpsichord on our keyboard.

Magnificat is the song Mary sang (Luke 1:46-55) in response to the news that she would bear the Christ child. It is so titled because the Latin text begins “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” (My soul magnifies the Lord). From plainsong to modern composers, this text has been set to music countless times, and remains a favorite for both musical exploration and liturgical application. Although its attribution to Buxtehude is now dubious, this setting remains a staple in the Advent-Christmas choral repertoire. Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) was a Danish organist and composer whose organ works are central to the repertoire for recitals and church services. Writing in various vocal and instrumental idioms, his style greatly influenced others, including a young J. S. Bach. The text is broken into many smaller sections, via a recurring instrumental ritornello, and differing choral textures (solo, duet, trio, and full choir).

Christmas Cantata is in part the work of Richard Shephard, an editor at Saint James Music Press (Tryon, NC). Shephard began with Corelli’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 8 (commonly called the Christmas Concerto), then added choral parts which blended with Corelli’s music. Shephard set the Christmas story from Luke 2, plus portions of related hymns by Caswall and Montgomery, in a clever manner, yielding a simple yet satisfying cantata. Christmas Concerto was commissioned by Cardinal Ottoboni and published posthumously in 1714 as part of Corelli’s 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 6. Its exact composition date is uncertain, but there is a record of Corelli having performed a Christmas concerto in 1690 for a new patron. Arcangelo Corelli (1658-1713) was an Italian violinist and composer whose music was key in the development of sonata and concerto genres, in establishing the preeminence of the violin, and as the first coalescing of modern tonality and functional harmony.

We hope you will join us for this program as we await the coming of the Christ child!