A Chanticleer Christmas

Chanticleer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday, December 3.

After listening for years to my hyperbolic cooing over Chanticleer’s annual Christmas concert, my parents decided to come to New York this season, with my brother in tow, to experience it for themselves. I was thrilled, of course, and then terrified, as I always am when people act on my implicit recommendations. Feeling responsible for someone else’s disappointment is devastating.

I needn’t have worried, of course. The program was as stunning as always. And what’s more, experiencing it with them made it feel fresh as well as familiar. Mom’s delight with the Neapolitan Baroque crèche in the medieval hall made me see its charm with new eyes, and knowing that Franz Biebl’s lovely “Ave Maria” was new to them made it shimmer with a special warmth.

That said, I cherish the familiarity of the program, the comfort of the standard transitions from plainsong to Renaissance works to twentieth-century numbers to carols and finally to spirituals. And as much as I adore Hugo Distler’s elegant neo-Baroque “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,” I have to say the carols were the highlight this year. Andrew Carter’s arrangement of an unnamed Spanish carol, with its energetic solo lines, exuded an infectious joy, and the choir’s performance of the Czech Rocking Carol perfectly expressed the tenderness and warmth such a lullaby should. Sean and I experienced lots of ups and downs this year (as I’m sure many people did—we live in interesting times, as the saying goes), but swaddled in that sonic tapestry, I felt soothed and comforted and hopeful for next year.

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