Holiday tradition includes nontraditional music

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December 4th, 2012

Omaha, NE – A local holiday tradition continues this year with some nontraditional music.

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This weekend, the Omaha Symphonic Chorus presents its annual Christmas at the Cathedral concerts. The Chorus is joined by the Omaha Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the Archdiocesan Children’s Choir.

The Omaha Symphonic Chorus at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. (Courtesy photo)

The centerpiece of the first half is Mozart’s Solemn Vespers. This work is not traditionally associated with Christmas, but Chorus Director Greg Zielke said some the text is appropriate for the occasion. ““I suppose that it was selected on the basis of the last movement, which is the Magnificat, the song of Mary,” Zielke said. “So that is sort of our tie-in with the Christmas theme.”

Also, the name Solemn Vespers doesn’t mean the music will be somber. “In Mozart’s thinking, that meant that it was for chorus and orchestra and soloists,” he said. “It was a grander musical expression of a vespers.”

In fact, Zielke said, the music has Mozart’s typical joyous sound with a touch of adolescent energy. “A good way to characterize this is ‘youthful enthusiasm’,” Zielke said.

The second half of the concert is quite a contrast to the first. It begins with quiet and introspective selections like Lo! How a Rose e’er Blooming by Michael Praetorius, The Dream Isaiah Saw by Glenn Rudolph, and Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat. Zielke said the Magnificat uses Pärt’s signature sound. There’s “quite a bit of dissonance found in the harmonies, but never in a bitter way,” he said. “It’s a very calm and peaceful type of music.”

The Chorus then switches gears, performing many familiar carols and building up slowly to the enthusiastic finale, We Wish you a Merry Christmas.

The 17th annual Christmas at the Cathedral concert with the Omaha Symphonic Chorus is this Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Both performances are in St. Cecilia Cathedral.

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