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A Snow-free Christmas



Wellington’s most versatile chamber choir, Nota Bene, has a reputation for its innovative programming and high performance standards. In this year’s Christmas concert, guest conductor Peter Walls (CEO of the NZSO and Emeritus Professor of Music at Victoria University, Wellington) will conduct the choir in a programme of music from England, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and New Zealand.


Opening the programme is Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, performed by the women of the choir with harpist Carolyn Mills (Principal Harp, NZSO). During a rather perilous wartime crossing of the North Atlantic, Britten’s ship berthed at Halifax, Nova Scotia. There he came across a book of medieval poems and some of these he set during the voyage as the 'Ceremony of Carols'. This charming work has an air of ‘knowing innocence’ similar to his Hymn to St Cecilia, written on the same voyage.


Another highlight on the programme is Poulenc’s set of Four Christmas Motets. Francis Poulenc was one of the twentieth century's most notable composers of sacred choral music. His motets are characterized by bright colors, strong, clear rhythms, and gorgeous, often novel, harmonies. Sometimes introspective, sometimes soaring angelically, each motet is imbued with a deep expression of his faith and unique personality.


Representing ‘Christmas downunder’, Nota Bene will sing selections from Douglas Mews’ Snow-free Carols, with texts by Father E A Forsman, Eileen Duggan and J R Hervey. The choir will also perform settings of traditional Christmas texts by two Wellington composers: Carol Shortis, currently studying composition at the New Zealand School of Music, and Andrew Baldwin, composer-in-residence at Wellington’s Cathedral of St Paul.


In addition to the choral works on the programme, Lexus Song Quest finalist Frances Moore sings Brahms’s lovely Cradle Song of the Virgin, with accompaniment from violist Peter Barber (NZSO) and pianist Fiona McCabe.


Read the review of this concert.

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