John Koza consistently sets a gold standard with the Camerata Singers performances. A first look at the program, Christmas with the Camerata Singers – A Cappella, on Sunday, December 13, at San Carlos Cathedral, revealed a wealth of familiar titles and favorites. And, by the end of the program the listener was definitely not disappointed. Sir David Willcocks, long associated with Kings College Cambridge and who recently passed away in September 2015, left myriad arrangements that will long be enjoyed by community, church and professional choirs. No less than seven Willcocks arrangements graced this program.
Opening was “Once in Royal David’s City” with alto Rachel Lowery leading the way with her lovely clear voice. Other Willcocks arrangements included “A Child Is Born In Bethlehem”, and the lively “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” in the first half. A most lively Michael Praetorious “Psallite Unigenito” contrasted with David Griffiths “Annunciation,” a hushed and more serious telling of the angel’s visit to Mary. Another pairing of lively and thoughtful came from “Up! Good Christian Folk and Listen” and Howard Helvey’s “O Lux Beatissima.” The third set of the first half was “Five Carols” as arranged by Sir Richard Rodney Bennet who also has a background in jazz. Five and six hundred year old familiar texts of “There Is No Rose,” “Out Of Your Sleep,” “That Younge Child,” “Sweet Was The Song,” and “Susanni,” were set to mixed meter, adventurous voicing and phrasing to great effect.
Like the opening, the second half started with another Willcocks arrangement, “Deck The Hall.” This half also included Willcocks arrangements of “The Cherry Tree Carol,” Away In A Manger,” and to finish with a lovely sing-a-long of “Silent Night.”
Mixed in with these were R. Vaughan Williams “The Blessed Son of God,” and “No Sad Thought His Soul Affright.” More contrast of styles included “Verbum Caro Factum Est: Y La Virgen le Dezia,” “Adeste Fideles,” the always lovely Praetorius version of “Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming,” Charles Wood’s arrangement of the Italian Traditional “Hail, Blessed Virgin Mary,” followed by Praetorius’ “In Dulci Jubilo.”
Another possibly overlooked testament to this choir’s versatility and musicianship is their performances were in three very different acoustic locations. With no time to settle in, Koza consistently delivers a program of shifting styles, sharp diction, and greatly enjoyed music of the season. Focused singers with smiling faces and great repertoire under Koza’s direction produced a highlight of this Christmas season.