This year, as The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay prepares its Holiday Concert, there will be an historical conjunction of a different nature. The Tampa Theatre, a Tampa icon since 1926 and rated by CNN as one of the 15 most historic theatres in the world, will play host to The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, a significant artistic presence since 1979 with a long and storied history of advancing the art of choral music in the Tampa Bay area.
The upcoming Holiday Concert on Monday, December 14th at The Tampa Theatre will feature a variety of musical offerings that will rekindle the spirit of Christmas in the hearts of our audience.
One work that resonates in my own memory of Christmas is “Once in Royal David’s City”, arranged by Sir David Willcocks. For many years, I would spend the day on Christmas Eve wrapping presents. At 10:00 AM, I would tune in to National Public Radio to hear the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast live from the chapel at Kings College in Cambridge England. The opening hymn every year is this song, with the first verse sung by a boy treble, the second verse sung by the choir and the third verse sung by all attending. Sir David Willcocks did much to popularize this festival when he was Director of the Choir at King’s College from 1957 to 1974.
Another work that we will be performing is “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen. Written in 1994 as part of a collaboration between Mr. Lauridsen and the Los Angeles Master Chorale under the baton of Paul Salamunovich, this acapella work is one of my favorites, in part due to the sublime beauty of the music, but also because of the powerful message in the Latin text, translated in part: “O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in a manger!” Commenting on the work at its premiere, Mr. Salamunovich commented that the timeless beauty of this work rivals that of Tomas Luis de Victoria, whose setting has been popular for several centuries. In the 21 years since its premiere, Lauridsen’s setting has become one of the world most popular choral works.
The concert will conclude with a setting of “Deep Peace” by Greg Knauf. This benediction is taken from Gaelic runes going back to antiquity and offers a blessing to take with us as we leave. Our Director, Dr. James K. Bass has included this work in every Holiday Concert that he has directed. The concluding verse includes the text “May the Lord of peace give you peace forever. Deep peace to you.”
There is so much more that I could write about regarding the music in this upcoming concert, but my mere words can do little to magnify the beauty of the music that will be presented. The best advice I can offer is to purchase tickets, attend the Holiday Concert and drink in the wonderful music that will be presented in this historic venue.