Craig Jessop to conduct Christmas at the Cathedral
December 7th, 2011
Omaha, NE – The Omaha Symphonic Chorus serves up an Omaha holiday tradition this weekend.
For the last fifteen years, the Omaha Symphonic Chorus has presented the Christmas at the Cathedral concert at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. For the sixteenth anniversary, a special guest returns to conduct a portion of the concert. Dr. Craig Jessop is world famous for his tenure as director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah, but he also has strong ties to Omaha. He served as commander of the Heartland of America Band at Offutt Air Force Base and was a past director of the Omaha Symphonic Chorus.
“So this is home,” Jessop said. “My two oldest children graduated from Papillion High School. My oldest son … graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical here in Omaha. So our roots are very deep. In fact, if you ask my children where they’re from, they will not say Utah, they’ll say Nebraska.”
During the first half of the concert Jessop will put his considerable skills and experience to use, conducting Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Christmas Cantata “Hodie.” Written while Vaughan Williams was in his eighties, it was his last large choral/orchestral work.
“Hodie means ‘on this day’,” Jessop said. “And the form of it is … much like a passion of Bach, in that the story is told through the scriptures…and they tell the story of the birth of Christ.”
“Interspersed are large choral numbers, two chorales, and some solo pieces,” he said, “exactly like a passion would be done.”
Appearing alongside the biblical texts are a number of poetic passages by writers such as John Milton, Thomas Hardy, George Herbert, and even Vaughan Williams’ own wife, Ursula. These sections offer commentary and reflection on the narrative as it unfolds.
Director of the Omaha Symphonic Chorus, Dr. Greg Zielke conducts the second half of the concert, which features the Many Moods of Christmas Suite No. 1. It is an arrangement by Robert Russel Bennett that includes a number of holiday favorites. Performing with the Omaha Symphonic Chorus is the Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra, the University of Nebraska at Omaha Concert Choir, and the women of the Grace University Chorale. The concerts are Friday December 9 at 8 pm and Sunday December 11 at 2 pm in St. Cecilia Cathedral, 701 North 40th Street in Omaha.