For almost five decades, the Falmouth Chorale has presented an annual holiday concert at the First Congregational Church on Falmouth's Village Green. This year is no exception. Artistic Director John Yankee will direct the Chorale, the a capella Chamber Chorale, a string quartet from New England Conservatory, and the Cape Cod Children's Chorus in three performances of "Christmas Across the Channel," a program of carols from both British and French traditions. The concert will be offered three times: Saturday, December 8 at 4 and 7:30 PM, and Sunday, December 9, at 3 PM. The Sunday performance will be followed by a festive holiday reception.
Stephanie Weaver, Musical Director of Cape Cod Conservatory and rehearsal pianist for the Chorale, will accompany on piano. Featured on solo harp will be Sandra Bittermann, principal harpist with the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra since 1986.
"Variations pastorales sur un vieux noel," or Variations on an Old Carol, a solo for the harp opens the program and draws the audience into a concert of enchantment and delight. Composed by Marcel Samuel-Rousseau in 1917, the "Variations" are based on the 15th-century French carol "Noel Nouvelet."
The central work in the program is a four-part arrangement of Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols," a choral piece scored for harp accompaniment and consisting of 11 short movements, seven of which Mr. Britten wrote on an ocean crossing to England from the United States in 1942, a treacherous time on the North Atlantic. He based his text on poems and verses written in the 15th and 16th centuries and later unified them with a processional and recessional plainsong, "Hodie Christus Natus Est."
Ms. Bittermann will accompany throughout and play the "Interlude," which reintroduces motifs from other movements. The soprano soloist, Jodie Edwards, is a member of both the Falmouth Chorale and its smaller ensemble, the Falmouth Chamber Chorale.
The Chamber Chorale will sing a favorite English piece, "In the Bleak Midwinter," a setting of a poem by the 19th-century poet Christina Rossetti. Mr. Yankee has selected Harold Darke's setting, which treats each verse differently, with solos for soprano and tenor. This version is often heard on the radio broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge, England.
The program will present lesser-known carols chosen because they combine French and English elements. "Masters in This Hall," for example, is an old French dance tune with words written by William Morris about 1860. Ms. Edwards, joined by the Chorale, will perform "O Holy Night," an English translation of a French poem, "Minuit, Chrêtiens!" set to music by Adolphe Adam in 1847. The Chorale will sing English composer John Rutter's arrangement of the French carol "Il est né, le divin Enfant."
The concert will end with the traditional audience singalong of favorite carols from both sides of the English Channel.
Tickets are $20 in advance for adults, $25 at the door, and $5 for students with ID. They are available at Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth, Uncle Bill's Country Store in North Falmouth, Woods Hole Market in Woods Hole, Titcomb's Bookshop in East Sandwich, and Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee and from any Chorale member. Tickets can also be ordered online. For more information, visit www.falmouthchorale.org or call (774) 392-2383.