This year’s Christmas Cantata is called “And There Was Light” by Joseph M. Martin and orchestrated by Stan Pethel. It is brand new to the choral market published just this year and features “time-honored carols and expressive original songs” for chorus and small chamber orchestra (flute, clarinet, two trumpets, trombone, percussion, and piano). The music is interwoven throughout the whole service with scripture, prayers, readings, and places for congregational singing. We do hope you will be able to join us for this special Advent service made possible by the Fine Arts patrons.
The structure of the cantata is anchored in a central theme of “light”; the first-half using hopeful prophetic Scripture to announce the Incarnation and the second-half focusing on the joy associated with Christmas.
As an example, the third movement Come, Golden Light incorporates the Native American melody LACQUIPARLE and an old Christian plainsong melody VENI EMMANUEL in a hauntingly beautiful setting. This is paired with a beautiful text asking for the golden light of Christ to break through the shadows and painful places in our lives. The flute and clarinet echo this lament in the orchestration and draws the listeners into the repeating call of “Come, golden Light. Come, come, Emmanuel.”
This stands in contrast to the triumphant expressions of joy found in the seventh movement, Angel Song, with the familiar refrain of “glory to the newborn King!” sprinkled throughout the song. It starts with the heavenly angels singing, then moves to the song of the shepherds, and finally concludes with the voices of the faithful on earth as the congregation is invited to sing the traditional French Carol “Gloria! In Excelsis Deo”.
One of the closing songs, Silver and Shadows, is a deeply intimate prayer that includes a nocturne-like accompaniment combined with beautiful poetry. The closing line of this song is “tonight as we gather in halls filled with wonder, adorned with the beauty of worship and praise, let us remember the silver and shadows, the cradle of wood, where God sent His grace.” This is one of the beautiful reminders Advent gifts us with each year. The forces of darkness, injustice, division, death, and hopelessness cannot compare to the light of Life found in Jesus Christ. This light is available to us now and forever and often appears in the humblest of places. I look forward to worshiping with you all during this service!