Yale Camerata To Present Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio’

The Yale Camerata will offer a performance of the complete “Christmas Oratorio” of J.S. Bach in two concerts this month.

In addition, the group will host a pre-concert talk by Markus Rathey, associate professor of music history at Yale and a Bach scholar, before each concert. A symposium on “The Christmas Oratorio in Context” on Friday, Dec. 5, will explore Christmas in music and the visual arts, as well as its biblical and pagan origins.

The concerts take place on Saturday, Dec. 6, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 7, at 4 p.m. in Battell Chapel, corner of College and Elm streets. The talk before Saturday’s concert will take place at 7 p.m. in Dwight Chapel, 67 High St.; the pre-concert talk on Sunday will begin at 3 p.m. at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall St.

The Dec. 5 symposium will take place 1:30-6 p.m. in Rosenfeld Hall, 109 Grove St.

All events are free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Bach composed “The Christmas Oratorio” in the 1730s as part of a series of large-scale pieces celebrating the major feasts of the liturgical year. Most of the musical material for “The Christmas Oratorio” was originally composed for secular cantatas and provided with a new sacred text. Therefore, it is possible to trace Bach’s musical development and shifting emphasis to larger works in detail. Originally, the six cantatas were conceived to be performed sequentially on six occasions between Christmas Day and Epiphany. Audiences today are accustomed to hearing cantatas of “The Christmas Oratorio” performed individually and out of context; the Yale concerts will allow audiences to hear the work in its entirety.

The Yale Camerata is directed by Marguerite Brooks. Instrumental soloists for the concerts are Olav van Hezewijk and Lisa Rautenberg. Derek Chester, an alumnus of the Yale program in early music, oratorio and chamber ensemble, will sing the role of the Evangelist; other soloists will be drawn from the Yale Voxtet, a group of graduate voice students from the Institute of Sacred Music and the School of Music led by James Taylor.

In keeping with the Yale Camerata’s annual holiday tradition, the concerts will also include the “Dona nobis pacem” from Bach’s “Mass in B-Minor” and the Willcocks’ arrangement of Goss’ “See, amid the Winter’s Snow,” which the choral group sings with the audience.

For further information about the concerts or symposium, visit www.yale.edu/ism or call (203) 432-5062.

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