If you were thinking I was describing something to eat, guess again—I’m actually describing the music tonight at the Oahu Choral Society concert! It was a program of all familiar carols, but in all contemporary and fresh versions that made you love every single seventh chord and lush harmony, the old made new again.
I have to admit that I hate hearing Christmas carols, especially the type that you are besieged with from the day after Thanksgiving whenever you step foot in a retail establishment. The arrangements seem trite and trashy—I guess I am looking for the word “trivialized.”
With the exception of John Rutter’s arrangement of “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” all of the carol arrangements were new to me—I had never heard them before. And that, along with the OCS’s exquisite performance of them, with such a gorgeous blend and light tone, made tonight so extraordinary and “delicious.”
I did my part by opening the concert with four carol settings by Wilbur Held and Paul Manz: The three Kings; Shepherds; What child is this; and God rest ye merry gentlemen. I always remember Carl Crosier saying is “what people come to hear are the Christmas carols,” so that is what I played. I made tons of stop changes so as to show off the many colors of the Aeolian-Skinner organ.
I also played interesting introductions to the four audience carols (Joy to the world, Hark the herald angels sing, Away in a manger, and Silent Night) as well as alternative harmonizations on the last verses. People were so surprised to hear me do this—Tommy Yee, the pianist, was so taken with this notion and admitted he just plays all verses with the same harmonizations. I even played a “bluesy” arrangement of Silent Night that I wouldn’t dare do in a church service, but it felt right in tonight’s concert.
By the way, I thought Tommy Yee’s piano accompaniment was absolutely beautiful and so sensitively played.
Thank you, Esther Yoo, and Oahu Choral Society, for asking me to play in this extraordinary concert!