Saturday, December 10 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 11 at 4 p.m. performed by CSD with orchestra and the Durham Children’s Choir at Duke University Chapel.
Music roars and whispers around you like the wind. A choir is singing. You are on a ship on a stormy sea, you are in prison, you are in a pickle barrel! And in every scene, the REAL Saint Nicolas plays the hero.
This is the spirit of the story that Britten has so brilliantly evoked in his 1948 cantata, Saint Nicolas. It has all the high drama, spookiness, and loveliness one could wish for in the telling of the life and legends of this 4th century Greek bishop. Plus, the audience gets to sing along in places (the choir has amazing soaring soprano descants).
Not the Santa Claus that we know today, the true Saint Nicolas devoted his life to serving God, becoming an advocate for children, the poor, and sailors at sea. The ever popular “Pickled Boys” movement, featuring a tenor soloist and 3 youth soloists, dramatizes a legend humorously evocative of a theme characteristic of age-old, and somewhat grisly, French and German fairy tales.
Benjamin Britten, best known for his beloved “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”, was the quintessential music educator, but above all else, sought to entertain, and his Saint Nicolas is thrillingly satisfying in that regard.
The concert, directed by Rodney Wynkoop, will set the stage for Britten’s Saint Nicolas with several beautifully-arranged, traditional English carols, sung as only the Choral Society can sing them, reverberating within the walls of the gloriously-restored Duke Chapel.