After we got through the horrendous traffic on the fog bound Bay Bridge, we had quite a serene evening in the sold-out Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. No handicrafts on the front row,  lots of smiling members-present and past- of our Board of Trustees, and lots of people who seem now to be making this the venue of choice for their Christmas concert - even if they don't live in the East Bay.

To continue our Christmas countdown, we report on Adam's plans.  Usually he goes back to Tecumseh, Oklahoma for New Year's when the tradition is to fire off a rifle to celebrate ( "because it's Oklahoma" he says - and it's an image worth conjuring up!).This year for the first time he is going back to Tecumseh on the 24th to be with his family - small, but with lots of animals ( "because it's Oklahoma") and he thinks that perhaps the celebratory shot might be fired on Christmas this time.  You've no idea how many famous people come from Oklahoma ( like Hoda, born 24 miles from Adam) -you should ask him some time!  "Adam Ward's Oklahoma"  - now THERE might be a fun TV series....

Adam after the Oakland performance.  

We certainly couldn't have gotten a nicer review for the Christmas concert than this one from the San Jose Mercury News after Stanford:

Review: Chanticleer 
brings blissful song to the 
holiday season
 
By Richard Scheinin
San Jose Mercury News

Posted: 12/10/2010 09:23:10 AM PST

Updated: 12/10/2010 10:53:56 AM PST

 
Well, I've had my annual de-stresser: Chanticleer 
performed its new Christmas program Thursday at 
Stanford Memorial Church, filling the gilded space 
with its otherworldly sounds. How the male chorus 
maintains this level of seamless refinement on a 
year-to-year basis is a mystery; what's not is that my 
blood pressure drops whenever I check in with the 
group for the holidays.

"A Chanticleer Christmas," which is touring the Bay 
Area through Dec. 23, begins with plainsong for 
Christmas morning. Memorial Church was darkened 
as half the group -- six singers -- processioned 
down the aisle to meet the other half in front of the 
altar. Each singer held a candle; real wax, real 
flames, the whole idea of bringing light to darkness.

Then there was "Ave Maria virgo serena" ("Hail Mary, 
full of grace") in a contrapuntal setting by Jean 
Mouton, the French Renaissance composer. The 
individual voices -- circling, crisscrossing -- were 
so clear as to be tactile; you practically could trace 
them with your fingers.

And so it went. With the house lights up, there was 
Thomas Tallis's "O nata lux," his 16th-century motet 
about the light of the redeemer. The composer's 
polyphony is streamlined; Chanticleer's sound was 
 
lush. On "Ecce, quod natura," the sound was more 
than that -- luscious, bringing pop communicability 
to a 14th-century carol from England. A hit single 
via download, maybe?

The program, presented by Stanford Lively Arts, also 
demonstrated 

that liturgical settings don't have to be centuries old 
to be effective, or beautiful. "There is no rose of 
such virtue" -- the first of "Two Medieval Lyrics" set 
by Steven Sametz for Chanticleer in 1995 -- featured 
spectral harmonies in subtle oscillation behind the 
fresh-voiced soloist, alto Adam Ward.

The world premiere of "The Word Became Flesh," by 
Swedish composer Jan Sandstrom, introduced 
harmonies as vivid and varied as stained glass -- 
and so many overtones that there was a buzzing as 
the ensemble sang "and the Word was God." I'm also 
almost happy to report that there were several off-
pitch notes in the upper voices during this piece; 
finding out that Chanticleer isn't perfect was 
something of a relief.

In the concert's second half, the San Francisco-
based chorus -- whose music director, Matthew 
Oltman, was seated in the crowd, cheering the 
group on -- performed "Allons, gai bergeres" ("Let 
us go gaily, shepherdesses"). A 16th-century French 
madrigal by Guillaume Costeley, it was pure whisked 
elegance.

"The Boar's Head Carol," which featured a number of 
the Grammy-winning ensemble's lower voices, 
including the infallible bass Eric Allatore, was a 
rouser from 19th-century England, almost 
boisterous in this arrangement by Elizabeth Poston. 
Gustav Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter," setting a 
poem by Christina Rossetti, was all solace and 
peace.

Finally, Chanticleer sang a "Christmas Spiritual 
Medley" from the African-American church, arranged 
by Joseph Jennings, the group's music director 
emeritus. "Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow." "Sweet 
Little Jesus Boy." "What Month Was Jesus Born In." 
Here the group cut loose: precision soul.

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