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Saint Louis Chamber Chorus Marks Britten's Centennial With 'A Boy Was Born'

William Bascomb
Saint Louis Chamber Chorus

This Sunday, the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus will perform “The Ancients Speak: Old English.” It’s the third in a series of concerts showcasing compositions inspired by ancient languages, from Greek to Slavic.

The signature element of this concert is the notoriously complex Christmas cantata “A Boy Was Born” by Benjamin Britten. The a capella choir will perform the cantata in its entirety, as well as works by Richard Rodney Bennett, Ugis Praulins and Yakov Gubanov. Another highlight is the world premiere of British composer Francis Pott's “Good Day, Sir Christëmas" which was commissioned by the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus.

“What makes this piece ["A Boy Was Born"] so fiendishly difficult for the performer is that you have to really look after yourself. And very often, you may be singing something loudly or softly or crescendoing or diminuendoing when the other voices are doing something completely difficult," said artistic director Philip Barnes. “At one point I said to the singers, don’t, whatever you do, expect me to cue everything because I don’t have that many limbs.”

In keeping with tradition, Barnes selected a venue with thematic ties to the performance. St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church was built 100 years ago, the same year Benjamin Britten was born.

“It seemed a lovely marriage of anniversaries,” Barnes said, adding that historical and architectural information about the church written by St. Louis County Parks Historian Esley Hamilton will be included in the concert program.

“You can read about the building from someone a lot more learned than I am, and learn a little about the setting and then hear the building played, as it were. We treat these buildings almost like musical instruments. So you can hear how that building sounds when you get nearly 50 tremendous adult voices and 20 children voices in that place,” Barnes said.

Related Event

Saint Louis Chamber Chorus Presents "The Ancients Speak - Old English"
Sunday, December 22, 2013
3:00 p.m.
St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church, 7230 Dale Ave
For more information, call 636-458-4343 or visit the Saint Louis Chamber Chorus website.