Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pueri Cantores San Gabriel - Christmas at the Cathedral

By Douglas Neslund

It is said that Christmas is for children, so a Christmas season without hearing the angels sing would be a sad one, indeed. For the several hundred people, mostly in family groupings, the event at hand took place Sunday afternoon in the welcoming space of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley, conducted by Patrick Flahive, with attending accompanists Sal Soria, organist/pianist and Marcia Dickstein, harpist, performed seasonal music that would challenge any choir. Two highlights: John Rutter’s “Dancing Day” and, in celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary, his Missa Brevis in D, Opus 63 for treble voices and organ.

In and around these musical pillars was an ambitious program of carols, Gregorian chant, Spirituals, and instrumental interludes by Mr. Soria and Ms. Dickstein.  The "Puer natus in Bethlehem" plainchant was exceptionally well done. The choir is organized in logical fashion, according to age and ability. The youngest groups of children, represented by four each from the Seraphims and Cherubims, sang with accuracy in every department of the vocal arts, displaying admirable discipline throughout. All program offerings were sung from memory, and with fine vocal qualities.

The advanced group is the Queen of Angels choir of 21 youngsters and young adults. The choir names reflect their association with the Roman Catholic faith, even though members are not required to be adherents.

Britten’s “Missa Brevis in D” is truly a “brief mass” of the ordinary minus the Credo. The Sanctus movement is in fact a 12-tone scale, meant to mimic the ringing of bells, and the concluding Agnus Dei is much more difficult than would seem to be the case at first glance. The organ accompaniment is not spared difficulty, either.

Rutter’s “Dancing Day” is comprised of seven movements (two of them instrumental) largely focused on Latin and English texts, and offering two of the children, Natalie Rodriguez and Jacob De Los Reyes, a solo turn each.

Pueri Cantores is an international organization with members throughout the world numbering ca. 40,000 children and youth. Mr. Flahive created Pueri Cantores San Gabriel 19 years ago with his wife, Lauren, as Co-Founder, and has been active in the international organization. The choir’s CD of Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols,” surely a popular item this year, may be obtained at the following web page: http://puericantoressgv.org - as well as instructions on where to hear the choir, and how to audition.

Pueri Cantores San Gabriel
To make the choir available to families located in the Pasadena area, weekly rehearsals will begin on Mondays soon at St. Philip the Apostle Church.

Art work by Howard Anderson, used with his permission

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