The heart and spirit of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra is invested in their stunning annual Noël! Noël! concerts, which have become a tradition featuring the acclaimed Brandenburg Choir and a special guest. This year a bright new star arises, soprano Bonnie de la Hunty, a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and the Royal Academy of Music (London, UK).
Bonnie has also just arrived back from studying early music singing at the Koninklijk Conservatorium (The Hague, Netherlands), where Dyer also studied. He believes “…people will remember the first time they hear this magnificent young voice” Dyer said.
He also emphasized “If you are planning to come to hear our Noël! Noël! in a church or a concert hall, I highly recommend booking early,” says Paul...”these performances are always our fastest moving concerts and this year will certainly sell out in a flash!” he noted.
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Christmas Concerts embrace sacred songs from many traditions including the evergreen, O Come All Ye Faithful and perennial Stille Nacht, which are always in the program.
Other secular songs on the program have a deep spirituality and there is always something fun or something new.
Artistic Director Paul Dyer AO likes to throw in some twists and turns to give each Noël! Noël! its own particular charm.
The program in 2018 starts with a special treat, O Euchari in Laeta Via by German Benedictine abbess, writer, natural healer, theologian, musician, composer, poet, philosopher and extraordinary visionary Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179).
Her vision of God as the source and sustainer of all creation, spurred her on to great heights, even if she was renowned for being a bit prickly because of limits to her patience, and humility! Saint Hildegard was one of the most remarkable women of influence during the Middle Ages in Europe and only one of three women in the long history of the Christian church to receive the honour of being named a ‘Doctor of the Church’
Many today believe her theological works surpassed those of most of her male contemporaries, showcasing her ‘visionary beauty and intellectual power’. The title conferred on her in 2012 in that long stretch of Christian history, is all about the church finally acknowledging her teaching had universal significance.
Hildegard had close ties with the city of Trier and composed O Euchari in leta vita in honor of Eucharius, a missionary to the Gauls and first bishop of the city. He laid the cornerstone to Trier Cathedral, the oldest cathedral north of the Alps.
Her solemn and beautiful sequence is well-known among the large body of work she left to posterity. It was first sung during Mass on Eucharius’ feast day, December 8, and the original celebratory poem revealed her alignment of text and music appropriate to the high ceremony it would grace.
This arrangement by contemporary Sydney composer Alex Palmer has been commissioned to showcase the voices of the orchestra, choir and Bonnie de la Huntly.
It will be followed by two arrangements of plainchant, a form of prayer in church whose origins are in Jewish synagogue practice and the music of early church centres at Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome and Constantinople.
Gregorian Chant as it is now known, is renowned for its healing (spiritual and physical) and relaxation qualities.
It was named to honour Pope Gregory 1 [6th century]. Rorate Coeli is a form of poetic expression about the coming of the Messiah. It will be followed by the glorious Veni Veni Emmanuel, a Christian hymn celebrating Advent and Christmas.
Then follows works by Johann Crüger (1598 – 1662) Nu kom der Heyden heyland, Johannes Eccard (1553-1611) Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier and Tye & Tate While Shepherds Watched, which is all about informing the shepherds of the impending birth of the baby Jesus.
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) composed the wonderful text, which has been used by many composers for ‘O, Praise the Lord’ – in Latin Laudate dominum.
An old Irish song, Gartan Mother’s Lullaby (arr. Palmer) will be sure to weave a beguiling spell while the truly heavenly sacred song for five voices, Maria Magdalena by Spanish composer Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599) will win many hearts.
Guerrero spent much of his life as choirmaster in the cathedrals of Seville and Malaga. In 1588 in his diary he said
“One of the main obligations of my service was to compose annually new chanzonetas and villancicos for Christmas. Each time I encountered the word Bethlehem, I felt my desire grow to visit that sacred place and to perform my music there in the company of the angels and shepherds who attended the ceremony”
The next special treat is Ô Nuit’ from his opera Hippolyte et Aricie by acclaimed French composer Jean-Phillipe Rameau (1683-1764) and it has been arranged by Paul Dyer.
At the Chateau at Versailles King Louis IV (1638 – 1715) reigned in splendour. He wanted to enjoy an art of fine living enhanced by joyous and uplifting music. His composers Jean Baptiste Lully (1632 – 1687) and Jean Phillipe Rameau each became known in their own right. They produced works, which celebrated love and life and caused the emotions to reach the highest heights, with Rameau also exploring the very depths of the soul in true Baroque style.
Hippolyte et Aricie was the first notable opera by Rameau, performed first in the spring of 1733. Rameau imbued his works with complex orchestration full of dramatic contrasts, profound heartfelt emotion and rich harmony.
This piece is perhaps best known from its use in the brilliant 2004 award winning French movie The Chorus (Les Choristes), where it exemplified the redemptive power of choral singing. Truly glorious.
The ABO’s Noël! Noël! is all about a ‘Sparkling Christmas’, a new work for string quartet commissioned by Paul Dyer for this year’s concert from the multi talented Alex Palmer.
As Dyer explains; ‘…the work takes melodies from four famous Christmas carols: Ding Dong Merrily on High, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Joy to the World. It begins with a rapid rhythmic introduction that becomes the accompaniment for a lively rendition of each of the four carols. These are then gradually layered on top of each other to create a whimsical and effervescent combination of Christmas favourites’.
The ABO’s Noël! Noël! is packed with musical gifts you will admire. The concerts premiere with two performances back to back at 5pm and 7pm on December 8 in the Elizabeth Murdoch Recital Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre.
In Sydney it will feature first in the City Recital Hall and in surrounding suburbs churches December 10 to 19.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Bonnie de la Hunty soprano soloist
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Paul Dyer AO Artistic Director & harpsichord/organ
Melbourne Recital Centre
Sat 8 Dec at 5PM & 7.30PM
City Recital Hall
Wed 12 Dec at 5PM & 7PM
Sat 15 Dec at 5PM & 7PM
CHURCH CONCERTS NSW ONLY
St Francis of Assisi Church
Mon 10 Dec at 7PM
Tue 11 Dec at 7PM
St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral
Thu 13 Dec at 7PM
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Mon 17 Dec at 7:30PM
St Clement’s Anglican Church
Tue 18 Dec at 7PM
St Stephen’s Anglican Church
Wed 19 Dec at 7PM