Mendelssohn Club in celebratory choral events in Chestnut Hill

By David Patrick Stearns

Inquirer Classical Music Critic

As much as holiday audiences crave the soothing loveliness of Christmas music, sustaining entire programs of it is tough because the music’s starting point is where most pieces end: Complete resolution of tension. It’s the only sensible way to characterize the birth of Christ. And where do you go from there?

That’s why choral Christmas programs by the Crossing (on Friday) and the Mendelssohn Club (Dec. 10), both at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, were full of different musical nationalities and knew the importance of atmosphere. Both events were wonderful, in completely different ways.

The Mendelssohn Club’s program, “Golden Voices of the East,” had excerpts from Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in which the composer subverted his big personality to strict church traditions. I hoped to hear the whole thing. Instead, traditional works by Rimsky-Korsakov and Kodaly were interspersed with periodic sing-alongs of “Silent Night” in which conductor Alan Harler was at his most irresistible. The tight, 75-minute program, and the after-concert cookies, made the event quite celebratory. Both concerts were packed – in a venue they are not known to play. Is this a phenomenon in the making?

December 19, 2011| By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic

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