St. Nick made an early visit to Salt Lake City on Sunday. The fourth-century bishop of Myra, upon whom the modern-day Santa Claus is very loosely based, is the subject of Benjamin Britten's "Saint Nicolas." The wonderfully evocative 1948 cantata was the centerpiece of the St. Cecilia's Day concert by the Cathedral of the Madeleine Choir fitting, as Britten himself was born 100 years ago on St. Cecilia's Day, Nov. 22.
Tenor Robert Breault sang the title role. His clean, forceful diction and expressive delivery of the text brought Nicolas vividly to life through the retelling of various miracles performed by the saintly bishop. The high point was Nicolas' rescue of three boys who had been kidnapped, chopped up and pickled. Young choristers William Selfridge, Airam Alvarez and Joassan Arano were charming as the boys, as was Henry Poppe, who portrayed the boy Nicolas.
The cathedral choir choristers from the Madeleine Choir School, with adult men providing the lower voices sang impeccably under Gregory Glenn's direction. A small ensemble of piano, percussion and strings performed Britten's colorful score eloquently. The depiction of a storm at sea was especially vivid.
The concert opened with Herbert Howells' "Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing," written in memory of John F. Kennedy. Madeleine Choir School music director Melanie Malinka led the singers in a moving performance. Rounding out the program was Arvo Pärt's haunting "Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten" for strings and bells.
The Cathedral of the Madeleine's St. Cecilia's Day concert features the cantata by Benjamin Britten, plus music of Arvo Pärt and Herbert Howells.
With • Conductor Gregory Glenn and tenor Robert Breault
When • Sunday
Where • Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City