It’s Christmas Eve, which means that we are nearly at the end of our Advent journey. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be spending the day cooking and baking for tomorrow, probably while listening to music. Will it be Christmas music? At the time of writing this post, Christmas is still a week and a half away, and I’m not tired of Christmas music yet, but there are four work choir concerts, one carol service, one carolling evening, carols at a nursing home, and numerous rehearsals for same standing between me and Christmas Eve, so it’s entirely possible that I’ll be a bit done with Christmas music by that point. Then again, I have not yet completed my annual re-watch of Claus Guth’s gorgeously sung, but notably bonkers staging of Handel’s Messiah, and that really never gets old, so perhaps that’s how I’ll be spending some of my day.
This year will be the first Christmas Eve in over a decade that I haven’t been singing in a Catholic midnight mass somewhere. Instead, I have the very great pleasure of joining the Toorak Uniting Church for their performance of Camille Saint Saens’ Oratorio de Noël, for which I am the alto soloist. I’m very much looking forward to this – I haven’t sung this piece before, and it’s very lovely. And the company will be excellent, too – I very much enjoy singing with this group.
So today, I’m going to share with you this lovely recording of the Oratorio, sung by the Mainz Bach Choir. It’s a great recording – I love the soloists, and the choir and orchestra are excellent. And Mainz holds a special place in my heart, as one of my dearest friends is from there. I must find out whether this is the choir her mother sings in – alas, I’m fairly certain it isn’t the orchestra she plays with (and even if it were, this piece has a distinct lack of flute in it). But it’s still a nice connection.
Saint Saens’ oratorio is not a long piece, as oratorios go – it will only entertain you for about half an hour of your Christmas Eve baking. Nor is it a dramatic piece – it’s mostly very gentle and pastoral in tone. I’ve copied an English translation of the lyrics below. Wishing you a peaceful Christmas Eve!
1. Prelude for organ and strings
2. There were shepherds abiding in the fields etc (come on, you know this). 2a. Glory to God in the Highest
3. I waited with longing for the Lord, and he turned to me
4. Lord, I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God, who has come into this world.
5. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. God is the Lord and has given us light. You are my God, and I shall trust in you. You are my God, and I will exalt you.
6. Why do the heathen clamour? Why do the people imagine vain and foolish things? Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit! As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
7. With you the beginning on the day of your strength, with you the beginning in the splendors of the saints.
8. Alleluia. Praise god, ye heavens, rejoice on earth, for the Lord has poured his consolation upon his people, and he to the afflicted will be merciful.
9. Arise now, Daughter of Zion! Praise at night, at the beginning of the night watch. May the Righteous One go out from Zion in splendor, may its Savior shine like a lamp.
10. Bring offerings, and adore the Lord in his holy place. Rejoice, heaven, and exult, all the earth, before the Lord, for he comes. Alleluia