All the “Gloria” that is contained in contemporary Christmas music was performed by the Windsong Chamber Choir this month at Westminster Presbyterian Church, conducted by artistic director and founder Kerry Barnett.
That Sunday evening’s program opened with a Magnificat by Michael Ekbladh, who was in the congregation. It featured both Latin (Magnificat anima mea Dominum) and English Biblical texts about both Elizabeth’s and Mary’s miraculous births of John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.
Soprano soloists were Jeanise Morton and Caroline Humphreys, whose pure tones rose above the 28-member choir’s passages, often with offbeat rhythms led by percussion.
Accompaniment, as for the other three compositions, was by organist Janet Pummill from Ft. Worth, a brass choir led by trumpets Steve Goforth and Karl Sievers, and two percussionists Dave Steffens and Roger Owens withLance Drege as tampanist.
Also on the program were works by 20th Century composers, K. Lee Scott and his Christmas Cantata (The Incarnation), Daniel Pinkham and his Christmas Cantata (Sinfonia Sacra) and John Rutter and his familiar Gloria.
Scott’s cantata consists of six melodies set to poems by writers from 1530 to 1992. They are Charles Wesley’s Glory be to God on High with a strong instrumental prologueto choral harmonies, Christina Rossetti’s Love Came Down at Christmas, In the Beginning Was the Word from the Gospel of John (with tenor Dedrick Miller as soloist).
Exult, O Morning Stars Aflame by Timothy Dudley Smith, John Gwyneth’s That Virgin’s Child (the 1530 text), and See, See, the Word is Incarnate by Godfrey Goodman (1624).
Pinkham’s also familiar Christmas Cantata starts with Quem vidistis, pastores, dicite (Whom did you see, shepherds, tell us) and continues with a Latin text sung by the chamber choir with vivid and colorful harmonies.
Soloists in the Rutter work were Amy Stewart with her pure high soprano, Melissa Johansen and Auvey Dillon from the soprano and alto sections. Its text starting with Gloria in excelsis Deo was a fitting ending to the program.
Windsong often sings in eight-part harmonies, with its near professional singers, who follow conductor Barnett with precise diction. They use music stands similar to instrumentalists, so there is no fluttering of page turning.
The chamber choir was founded in 1991 by Barnett and his late wife Marilee, with the intention of presenting music in an European style. In more informal settings, the singers often move around, mixing sopranos andaltos with tenors and bass baritones.
Windsong has performed with university campuses around the state and its singers come from all over the region. It has made several recordings, most recently A Classic Christmas with Leona Mitchell, the Metropolitan Opera star who now lives in Enid.