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21.12.11

Christmas Blah Blah Blah

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Charles T. Downey, Choral Arts Society Christmas concert at the Kennedy Center
Washington Post, December 21, 2011

Norman Scribner, who has led the Choral Arts Society of Washington since founding it in 1965, has set the date of his retirement for next summer. Scribner’s leadership of this mammoth volunteer choir has certainly been consistent. The ensemble’s current season, offered in tribute to Scribner, is recapitulating his legacy down to the annual Christmas concert, heard Monday night.

Many people love concerts of Christmas music, certainly enough to fill most of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Much of the program was aimed at the group’s strength, which is full-bodied, strongly articulated singing, an ethos put clearly into words by Scribner when he instructed the audience for the inevitable carol singalongs with the gruff words, “Stand up and sing. LOUD.” This was true of both the rather unsubtle rendition of “Jauchzet, Frohlocket!,” from Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” and a lusty waltz scene from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” made forceful by the sheer number of singers. [Continue reading]
It may be difficult to take seriously the idea of a war on Christmas, given how pervasive the holiday’s trappings are in the marketplace. In any case, it remains unclear on which side the forces of trivialization would be fighting.

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