Friday 7 December 2012

Eric Whitacre - Silent Night @ Union Chapel

Nothing quite says Christmas like a choir of angels and Whitacre and his Singers were in fine Christmas spirit at the Union Chapel.  Bringing a warm glow to a chilly evening, this was the perfect way to welcome in the holiday season.

Later this month, Whitacre releases his new album 'The Chelsea Carol', for which this concert offered a preview.  The concert comprised Whitacre's own compositions mixed with pieces by Poulenc, Barber and Tavener (amongst others), traditional carols and some amusing and moving poetry reading from the likes of Josie D'Arby, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill and Classic FM DJ Jamie Crick.  The pieces were all well chosen and performed by the Eric Whitacre Singers with well-rehearsed assurance, tight, balanced harmonies and some beautiful solo singing from the lead soprano.  Tavener's The Lamb was a particular highlight, as well as Dufay's Ave Maris Stella (the premiere recording of which features on 'The Chelsea Carol').  The carols even provided an opportunity for the audience to sing along, conducted enthusiastically by Whitacre.

It was Whitacre's own pieces that stole the show, however.  Typical of his style, the rich harmonies of his Alleluia are laced with chromatic dissonances and brought a calm spirituality that soared in the beautiful surroundings of the chapel.  Little Tree is Whitacre's take on Christmas: a frosty soprano melody sung above joyful and festive contrapuntal 'fa la la' textures, accompanied by shivering piano.  This was a festive delight.

Whitacre is as much of a draw as his music.  With his likeable persona, he is the rock star of contemporary classical music, mouthing "I love you" to the audience and inviting us all back for a party after the concert.  If this concert is anything to go by, Christmas at the Whitacre household is not to be missed.


Listen: 'The Chelsea Carol' is available digitally from 14th December.