‘Feast of Carols’ thrilling to a full house at St. Paul’s

by Michael Caruso, Chestnut Hill Local, 12/29/2014

The final two weekends before Christmas provided local music lovers with the gift of many holiday concerts. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12-14, gave me the chance to hear both the Vox Renaissance Consort and the Mendelssohn Club at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, as well as the Advent Cantatas and Chamber Music concert at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. Each in its own particular way was a distinctive addition to Philadelphia’s musical life taking place right here in Chestnut Hill.

The emotional highpoint of the weekend of concerts was “A Feast of Carols,” performed before an audience that packed every square foot of St. Paul’s Church late Saturday afternoon. This annual concert, started back in 1988, is always among the most popular Christmas concerts throughout the region. This time, however, there was an additional reason for the crowd to be as large and enthusiastic as it was. Alan Harler is stepping down as the Mendelssohn Club’s artistic director at the end of this season after heading the 130-member chorus for 27 years. Undoubtedly local choral music lovers simply wanted to combine hearing a fabulous program with offering a hearty “thank you” to Harler.

This year’s installment stood as a sonic testament to why Harler has been so successful. The program was flawlessly constructed and performed with a superb pairing of tonal splendor and impassioned musicality. Harler balanced the new with the old, interspersed carols to be sung by the audience with the choir between anthems drawn from the broad repertoire of Christmas masterpieces. His talents will be sorely missed.

For the full article: http://www.chestnuthilllocal.com/2014/12/29/feast-carols-thrilling-full-house-st-pauls/