Nanaimo music lovers are in for a choral experience that has almost everything at Malaspina Choir’s fall concert, Of Saints and Soldiers.
Beginning with the hauntingly beautiful Requiem by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the choir explores the themes of grief and remembrance, sung a cappella.
By contrast, the concert’s second half is devoted to Benjamin Britten’s St. Nicolas Cantata, featuring not only the choir, but the Nanaimo Youth Choir, the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra, timpanist Nicole Arendt, percussionist Adam Robertson, pianist Rie Okamura, organist Jenny Vincent and accompanist Sharon Wishart.
Renowned tenor Benjamin Butterfield sings the role of St. Nicolas, known as the original Santa Claus, but who is also famous for many miracles portrayed in the cantata. These include surviving a near shipwreck, the reincarnation of three boys slaughtered by a butcher, the rescue of three damsels from prostitution and subduing Constantine the Great.
The audience also gets to join the choir and children’s chorus in singing two Anglican hymns, All People That on Earth Do Dwell and God Moves in a Mysterious Way.
Written for the 100th anniversary of four schools in 1948, Britten intended this work to be democratic, accessible and participatory for everyone, said David Sratkauskas, music director at St. John the Divine in Victoria, who has often conducted Britten’s works.
“The audience participation, the jolly good story, the inclusion of hymn tunes that everyone in a country church in England would have known and the scoring for amateur instrumentalists supported by a few professionals raises everyone up,” he said.
He’s found that children especially love Britten’s music.
“They find it engaging, and because they tend to be more open-minded than adults, aren’t off-put by thinking, ‘Oh gosh, this is rather sophisticated,'” he said. “They recognize the quality and the honesty and aren’t just looking for a pretty tune, though, of course, there is much strikingly beautiful music in St. Nicolas as well.”
WHAT’S ON … Of Saints and Soldiers takes place at St. Andrew’s United Church on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets $20 for adults, $10 under 25, $5 eyeGO passes available and children under 12 free. Available at the Port Theatre box office.