The Millbrook Community Festival Choir under the direction of Daniel Michael Koch performed its 4th annual Christmas concert at Lyall Federated Church. This year the program was deigned around the caroling tradition. Koch was at an electric piano with a smaller ensemble than last year; this year featured players were: Rob Murphy on violin, Natalie Wren on oboe and English horn, Jessica Stein on trumpet, and Steve Siktberg on guitar.
They opened with “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” by Gustav Holst with soprano Robin Clifford who sang with impeccable finesse with the choir of six men and about four times as many ladies. The audience then sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” This was followed by “What Child is This in the Moon of Wintertime?” and “In Bethlehem’s Manger Lowly.” The gospels disagree about Jeshua of Nazareth’s birth: a manger appears only in Luke’s gospel to show that Jeshua was autochthonous to the rural earth like Dionysos, while Matthew’s story delivers the birth in a lofty mansion.
The audience sang about the angels in Luke, “Angels we have Heard on High,” then the choir sang “Down in Yon Forrest,” as arranged by R. Vaughn Williams. The traditional Kentucky Mountain Ballad “The Cherry Tree Carol” was sung by soprano Robin Clifford and baritone Matt Cossack. The audience responded with the traditional “Joy to the World.”
Twelve children, ten girls and two boys, appeared to sing sweetly “The Snow Lay on the Ground” and “Carol of the Bells” by Mykola Leontovych. The choir responded with Gustav Holst’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” as arranged by Koch, who then offered two songs from his own epic nativity song cycle: “Bethlehem” and “Mary’s Lullaby” ably sung by Caitlin Mandracchia and John Farias; they both sang with clear diction and passionate phrasing. The audience responded entusiatically with “The First Noel.”
The choir sang the Appalachian folk song “I Wonder as I Wander” with emotional grit. “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” was sung by choir with Dan Koch fingering extremely well at keyboard. Rob Murphy opened with a lyric solo introduction to “Wexford Carol" and was joined by Robin Clifford's clear high notes.
Matt Cossack delivered “Gesù Bambino” with caressing, carring notes and the audience delivered the finale: that all-time favorite, “Silent Night.”
Afterward there were refreshments served with punch. Daniel Koch will present his complete Nativity Song Cycle next Sunday evening at Lyall Federated Church at 7 pm.