When a Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra member visited the Czech Republic recently, the viola player uncovered musical gems from composers Jakub Jan Ryba and Frantisek Brixi.
Those works were shown to SPO’s conductor and chorus director Nicholas Fairbank, who was so impressed, he incorporated them into the orchestra’s annual holiday show.
Christmas in Bohemia is performed on Nov. 30 in Sooke and Dec. 1 at Royal Roads University in Colwood.
The concert’s centre piece is Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass. This piece is rarely presented in North America and will provide local audiences with a special musical experience, Fairbank said.
The work is frequently performed during the Christmas season throughout the Czech regions of central Europe.
With its simple melodic themes inspired by Czech folk music and colourful rhythms, the Christmas Mass is connected with the celebration of a traditional Czech Christmas. The Czech Christmas Mass will be sung in English by the SPO chorus, translated from Ryba’s original libretto.
“It’s a charming piece. It’s not musically sophisticated because many of the melodies were taken from Czech folk tunes. [Ryba’s] created an interesting orchestral score where the flutes and the other wind instruments add to what would otherwise be 30 bland melodies,” Fairbank said.
“We’re really looking forward to performing this piece for the first time in this part of the world.”
Sticking to the Czech theme is a piece by Bohemian (Czech) composer Frantisek Brixi. Pastores loquebantur, takes its text from the St. Luke’s Gospel story of the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus.
Also on the program is Antonio Vivaldi’s Magnificat.
The piece, composed between 1717 and 1720, is based on the sacred canticle sung at the end of vespers, in which Mary praises God as she prepares to become the mother of the Messiah.
Magnificat consists of nine parts, three for soloists and six for the full mixed-voice choir. Each is different in mood, key, and tempo.
Joining the chorus are acclaimed soloists Anna Shill, soprano; Tasha Farivar, mezzo-soprano; Jan van der Hooft, tenor; and Nathan McDonald, bass.
Tickets for the concerts are $25 and can be purchased online www.sookephil.ca, area outlets (Sooke Shoppers Drug Mart, Little Vienna Bakery, South Shore Gallery, Westshore Shoppers Drug Mart), or at the door.