There were the balance of the cards to be written, gingerbread cookies to bake and ice, the rest of the outdoor lights to clip up (memo to self: swing by a stationer’s and get more binder clips) and a box that had been gathering Christmas presents all year to be got down from the attic and its contents wrapped.
So instead I took the evening off and, in addition to enjoying the music of Sax to the Max at the library, wallowed in the sheer pleasure of the glorious voices of Schola Cantorum.
Concerts such as those presented Monday night by the four brilliant young saxophonists from the Crestview High band and the 11 trained vocalists of Schola Cantorum (“school of singing”) are the perfect antidotes to the holiday hustle and bustle that make so many people grumpy this time of year.
Taking a breather from “obligations” to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas is reinvigorating. It helps put into proper perspective the busy bother we think is important, but which usually never fails to overshadow the part of the Advent season that actually is important. An evening of uplifting music helps tremendously.
Schola director Dr. John Leatherwood led his chorus through a diverse program titled “The Very Best Time of Year” featuring a baker’s dozen of traditional, familiar and classic selections.
“We’ll sing some things you have heard before, and some things you may never have heard before and you’ll probably never hear again,” he promised at the start of the concert.
Standouts include the lilting “Gentle Mary” and the “Wexford Carol,” the latter featuring a beautiful solo by Sara Florence.
“She did that so well we’re going to let her sing a stanza in French by herself,” Leatherwood said as he introduced “Quelle est cette Odeur Agréable?” (Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing?), a French traditional carol.
I was pleased the group included “Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow,” which I have enjoyed in previous Schola Cantorum Christmas concerts. It’s always nice to hear the perky spiritual, which in this rendition featured the men getting in a little choral doo-wop.
Announcing, “Now we’ll go into the other kind of pieces — the recognizable ones,” Leatherwood led the group into the title song and the hysterically funny, “The Twelve Days After Christmas,” which begins by telling the listener that the singer and her lover had a fight. The days leading up to the twelfth day of Christmas generally involve cooking the birds and shipping back the maids a-milking, lords a-leaping, et. al., made famous in “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
(It’s actually a bit erroneous, because “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is actually a count up to Twelfth Night, not a count down to Dec. 25.)
During its four-concert performance schedule, Schola Cantorum performed before one of the largest audiences I have seen turn out in Crestview. That’s a good sign. Seems more and more people realize the cards, cookies and gift wrapping can wait while we pause to refresh ourselves in the really important parts of the holiday.
Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.