Later this week, 80,000 Salt Lake City music lovers will celebrate Christmas on a grand scale at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's annual extravaganza. Utah Chamber Artists marks the holiday in quieter, more intimate fashion but the fans of Barlow Bradford's group are no less dedicated, as evidenced by the enthusiastic capacity crowd in Libby Gardner Concert Hall on Tuesday.
The 38-voice choir and 36-piece orchestra opened the evening with Daniel Pinkham's engaging Christmas Cantata. The three-movement cantata is the composer's best-known work, but not as well-known as it ought to be. Bradford and his ensemble captured its bold, vivid colors with vibrant clarity.
Though the Pinkham cantata is a gem, Stephen Heitzig's setting of the e.e. cummings poem "little tree" was the concert's highlight. It's a beautiful marriage of music and text, with a simplicity and sense of wonder befitting the childlike point of view. The UCA singers, accompanied by harpist Tamara Oswald, gave an utterly enchanting performance.