I had the pleasure of attending what may very well be the most beautiful Christmas concert I have ever experienced. Of course we are well used to world-class performances from Pro Musica but even with that established reputation, this concert was really something special on December 11 at Trenton’s magnificent War Memorial auditorium.
Brilliantly directed by Dr. Ryan Brandau, the program first took us on a re-telling of the nativity story beginning with a slow and ethereal version of “O Come O Come Emanuel,” the 15th Century French melody, with orchestra and chorus rising to full power on the final “rejoice, rejoice, Emanuel shall come to thee oh Israel.” This blended seamlessly into “God Rest Ye merry Gentlemen,” which in turn led into one of my personal favorites, “Lo How A Rose E’er Blooming,” another musical legacy from the 15th Century. The facility with which orchestra and chorus could move from renditions that were exquisite and haunting to powerful music that filled the house —all with perfect discipline and precision was a demonstration of why Pro Musica is held in such high regard.
With this opening setting the standard, the concert went on to give us selections from Bach, Handle and others. Laura Kosar’s crystal clear soprano voice gave a beautiful rendition of the recitative “There Were Shepards” from The Messiah. Baritone Scott Purcell did an excellent performance of “Mighty King” from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. The first act ended triumphantly with “Joy To The World” and “The Hallelujah Chorus.”
Act two was a sampling of many different Christmas moods ranging from “Greensleeves,” done with a very delicate intro by the strings, then moving to the wind instruments, through “Deck The Halls,” “I Heard The Bells,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and more. The music was interspersed with dramatic reading by Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Dr. George Pruitt, both of whom have excellent speaking voices and showed real promise if they ever decide to take up a career on stage. The second act also gave us a genuine treat in the performance of the Trenton Children’s Choir singing “Ose Shalom,” a traditional Hebrew song that was perfectly performed.
Concluding with the most beautiful arrangement of “Auld Lang Syne” I’ve ever heard, and a magnificent grand finale, this was a memorable concert indeed. Anyone who is not keeping up with the performances of Princeton Pro Musica is missing one of New Jersey’s leading treasures.
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