Against a backdrop of brightly lit Christmas trees, the Princeton Singers performed a collection of traditional carols and folk songs at the Church of St. Monica in Berwyn, PA, on December 15. Entering a darkened church, the chamber choir carried candles and wore colorful Christmas sweaters as they sang Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella, an arrangement by artistic director, Steven Sametz.
The main event of the afternoon concert was a reading of the Dylan Thomas poem, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Actor Christopher Coucill’s narration vividly captured the exuberance and nostalgia of the poem, bringing to life the images of smoke-colored snow, blazing pudding, and an iced cake like a marble grave.
Throughout, the poem was interspersed with carols, the first being a particularly beautiful arrangement of All Through the Night during which one audience member was moved to quietly sing along. The choice of songs appeared to compliment each stanza of the poem, as when a reference to a hippopotamus brought forth a choral arrangement of Dance of the Hours.
While some songs evoked the quiet beauty of Christmas, others were laced with humor, such as the rousing drinking song, Wassail!, and a particularly playful version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. In the latter, singers provided quacking swan sound effects and visual demonstrations of a leaping lord.
The concert closed with Deck the Halls sung in Welsh, after which the audience was asked to join (in English) singing all three verses of the traditional carol.
The Princeton Singers chamber choir performs music of all cultures and periods, including commissioned original works. Performances have also been featured on National Public Radio, and international tours included Choir-in-Residence at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
The Child’s Christmas in Wales was the third performance in the concert series, Music and Monica’s, a musical outreach program that provides free or low-cost cultural events for the community at large.