The Keene Chorale
The Keene Chorale will celebrate its 41st holiday season with a performance of an oratorio by Hector Berlioz, L’Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ). Sung in English and directed by Maestro Cailin Marcel Manson, the performance will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, in the acoustically grand St. Bernard Church of Keene, N.H.
In L’Enfance du Christ, Berlioz retells the story of the holy family as they flee the murderous jealousy of King Herod, suffer severe hardship in their travel and, upon arriving in Egypt exhausted and near death, feel the sting of being turned away—despised as a “vagabond and homeless kind.” Begging for mercy, they eventually find compassion in the home of an Ishmaelite who quickly summons his household to tend to the weary and frightened family, that “hope and peace may comfort your soul.” Written in 1854, the music is sweeping and dramatic, intimate and tender, moving along the emotional journey of the travelers to the ringing intensity of its celestial closure.
Manson says he loves this piece and chose it because it’s an artistic goal to find and explore masterpieces, like this one, that aren’t more widely known. “It’s a complex story with a focus on the mystery and miracle that happened in a turbulent time—economically and politically. As a conductor, I feel it’s important to examine all facets of the story, including its allusions to the dark underpinnings of the nativity. There is a very human dimension in it, however, and it’s compelling that the story doesn’t overtly paint anyone to be the bad guy.” Manson says Herod made an evil choice to preserve his power—a decision made out of fear, and notes that in his anguish, Herod cries, ‘Oh what I would give to change my fate, only to heed the shepherds call.’” Manson compares Herod to the Ishmaelite father, a member of another group of marginalized people, who shows compassion to the holy family. Manson states, “This speaks directly to us in our time, and it’s not political, necessarily. The challenge of the nativity story is, would you have room for them? The season asks us, who are we going to choose to be? Will we treat each other with kindness, love and care? Each of us has the potential to be either the Ishmaelite father or Herod.” Notably, Manson intentionally placed the same soloist to sing the parts of both.
In this expansive work for chorus, orchestra and soloists, the Keene Chorale will be joined by the PanOpera Orchestra of Northampton, MA, and guest soloists mezzo Jazimina MacNeil, bass-baritone Rocky Sellers, baritone Nicholas Tocci and tenor Joshua Collier. Manson notes, “The piece gives us a chance to stretch the boundaries of the Chorale and highlight talents of those who live in the region. In our programming, I try to expand the circle of artists that we work with.”
This performance of L’Enfance du Christ is made possible by funding from The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, The Putnam Foundation, and The Frederick Smyth Institute of Music.
Tickets are available online at' www.brownpapertickets.com,' at the Toadstool Bookshop at 12 Emerald St., Keene, N.H.and from Keene Chorale members. For more information, call Betty Forrest at 603-357-1534. Tickets are $17 in advance ($14 for seniors and Veterans, $5 for students). Tickets may also be purchased at the door for $20 ($17 for seniors and Veterans, $5 for students). Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult, but will need a children's ticket.' www.keenechorale.org'
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