The Bel Canto choir of the Lawrence Academy Girl Choir Program, the only non-profit girl choir program in the Fox Valley, is thrilled to sing with newVoices this December. Bel Canto singers are in grades 10-12 and come from a large number of Fox Valley public, parochial, and home schools. In fact, many of their choir teachers will be on stage with newVoices! Bel Canto rehearses once per week during the academic year and prepares multiple concert programs each semester. As 2013 is the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, we are pleased to sing his master work, A Ceremony of Carols, on this program. Choirs and orchestras around the globe have been celebrating the centennial by performing Britten’s music; we are pleased to join them!
While traveling by ship from America to Great Britain in 1942, Britten discovered a book of medieval poems that became the basis for A Ceremony of Carols. Nine poems, a plainchant antiphon, and a harp interlude based on the antiphon comprise the work. The eleven short movements feature women’s choir, soloists, and harp. Not only did Britten compose the work for women’s voices, he selected many poems that are about Mary, or that feature Mary’s role in the annunciation and birth of Jesus. In few Christmas songs or texts is Mary’s role lifted up so visibly. Over the course of the 20th century, A Ceremony of Carols became standard repertoire for women’s choirs.
The Lawrence Academy Girl Choir program performs this work in its entirety every six years; this is the first opportunity we have had to perform it on another organization’s concert. We are grateful to newVoices conductor Phillip Swan and executive director Jeanne Kurka Reimer for inviting us to be part of this special Christmas program. We are thrilled to share A Ceremony of Carols with the wider community and look forward to hearing newVoices sing additional Christmas classics.