In their 25th anniversary Christmas concert, the Con Brio Choral Society will perform Glorias that traverse three centuries: Bach’s Mass in B Minor, completed in 1748 during the baroque period, a Gloria from Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, written in 1863, during the romantic period and the contemporary Rutter Gloria, composed in 1974.
The Rossini Gloria relies heavily on vocals, with only piano providing spare chords underneath. In exchange, the Mass in B Minor has a strong confluence of brass, vocal and strings. The Gloria starts out exuberantly, with voices layered in a way that makes the sopranos sound almost ethereal, until, in the middle of the piece, the pace of the music slows into an almost mournful rhythm.
“I’ve heard people say that somebody said ‘Who needs psychiatrists when you have the mass in B minor?’” said Dr. Stephen Bruce, the orchestral and choral conductor.
The Rutter Gloria, in contrast, is quick-paced, with the male and female vocal parts alternating in the Latin words of the traditional gloria: “Tu solo dominus, Tu solo altissimus, Jesu Christe” : “You alone are the Lord, You alone are the most high, Jesus Christ” – interspersed with short bursts from the brass section that last just long enough to make their presence known.
At the end, the voices and brass join together in a chorus of “Amens” and “Gloria in Excelsis”
“It’s a very exciting, mixed-meter joy ride,” said Bruce.
The concert will also include a singalong for audience members featuring the traditional carols Hark the Herald and Joy to the World. The choir will also perform The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and Angels We Have Heard on High.
The Con Brio group contains 45 singers and 30 musicians, including strings, flutes, oboes, trumpets, french horns, a bassoon, a tuba and a timpanist.
In honor of the group’s 25th Anniversary, the society commissioned a brass fanfare that will play as the choir members walk in. The piece is composed by Bill Thomas, director of music ministries at Christ the King Church in Old Lyme.
“It’s a brilliant, brassy piece. Very rhythmic. And I think people are really going to like it,” said Bruce.
The group will perform on Friday, December 10 at 7 pm and Sunday, December 12 at 3 pm at Christ the King Church in Old Lyme. The Friday performance is $30 and the Sunday performance is $35.
Tickets can be found at the Con Brio Choral Society website