Many families have a multitude of traditions during the holiday season: some bake cookies, go caroling, volunteer at charity, or go to church. But one tradition for many families is attending A Festival of Lessons & Carols, a concert performed by the Northwest Boychoir and Vocalpoint! Seattle. As divisions of Northwest Choirs, both groups aim to instill a passion for music and the arts in children and teens from the Pacific Northwest. These talented young men and women, between the ages of six and eighteen, perform alongside the Seattle Symphony in a classic Christmas service every year. This show is based on traditional Anglican worship services often held on Christmas Eve, and is a tradition that, this year, I participated in. The 90 minutes of readings, performances of traditional and modern Christmas carols, and heartwarming sing-alongs of classic Christmas favorites proved to be a jolly experience that exemplified the Christmas spirit.
The concert started with a luminous performance of “I Saw Three Ships,” which was followed by nine Bible readings, the titular lessons, and a varied and unique selection of carols. The ethereal voices of the Boychoir mixed well with the lower sounds of both male and female sections of Vocalpoint! Seattle, with an evident effort to enliven classic Christmas songs like “Silent Night” and “Hark The Herald.” Through new rhythms and consonant harmonies, these songs illustrated the diverse talents of the choir. Although some song choices were much more obscure than others, the songs included more modern arrangements and compositions, which helped to avoid the dreaded glaze of apathy which often covers an audience's eyes when faced with unfamiliar tunes. One particularly amusing performance was that of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” a Gospel song first written in the 1930s and arranged by the choir’s director Joseph Crnko; this song juxtaposed soaring, nearly incandescent melodies with upbeat, contemporary sounds. The female driven sing-alongs were less varied, more traditional carols, but had the same blend of expression, excellent sense of pitch, warm tonal quality, and crisp pronunciation.