Festival concerts at the Carmel Mission Basilica inspire listeners with their stunning beauty and joy. The 2019 edition, “Christmas at the Mission,” furthers that tradition and is presented Wednesdays, July 17 and 24, 8:30 pm, at the Carmel Mission Basilica. “These concerts are the final chapter of the Christmas Oratorio journey, coupled with a set of beautiful a cappella works by Arvo Pärt, the great Estonian ‘spiritual minimalist,’” says associate conductor Andrew Megill. “Pärt’s Seven Magnificat Antiphons, sprinkled throughout the program, are meditative, trance-like, and transcendent.”
The Christmas Oratorio’s vivid third and final cantatas comprise the major portion of the concerts. All the elements of Bach’s great Passions are here, including an evangelist to tell the story, beautiful chorales, and solo arias, all performed by members of the remarkable Festival Chorale. The final cantata was composed for final day of the Feast of Christmas and is joyfully optimistic, with a brilliant and festive chorus accompanied by an orchestra. Trumpets and timpani close the Oratorio in a blaze of glory.
Interlaced with the two cantatas are the Seven Magnificat Antiphons, a stunning a capella work with texts that would normally be sung individually as antiphons to the Magnificat at Vespers on the seven evenings preceding Christmas Eve. Pärt’s composition is hauntingly beautiful and is a perfect suited for the Carmel Mission Basilica.