On Sunday, November 13, the Jacob Sears Memorial Library hosted a presentation by T. Joseph (“Joe”) Marchio, Music Director of the Chatham Chorale, titled “Spectacular Simplicity: St. Nicolas, the Man and the Music.” Marchio discussed Benjamin Britten’s dramatic and engaging cantata “St. Nicolas” Op. 42, and the historical figure whose astonishing life and legend provide the setting for Britten’s work.
With Joe Marchio as their guide, the audience journeyed to the city of Myra in Asia Minor. There they met Nicolas, a Fourth-Century bishop who led an action-packed, yet simple and virtuous, life. Nicolas is the historical personage behind that embodiment of generosity known to us as “Santa Claus.” Among other spectacular demonstrations of virtue, Nicolas gave away his earthly fortune to the poor, rescued drowning sailors, and resuscitated doomed children.
Some sixteen hundred years after Nicolas’s death, his still-treasured memory inspired a major musical composition by one of the greatest Twentieth-Century English composers, Benjamin Britten. Britten recounted the life and legend of the inspirational figure in his “St. Nicolas” Cantata Op. 42, which premiered in 1948. The work puts musical brilliance and invention at the service of simple and compelling messages of faith, hope, and love that have the power to move and inspire people of all backgrounds.
Britten, like Nicolas himself, saw his mission as one of uplifting people. Upon receiving the Aspen award in 1964, Britten said, “I want my music to be of use to people…to enhance their lives,” and the “St. Nicolas” Cantata, in its own spectacular simplicity, retains the power to do just that.
Fans of powerful stories and great music have another treat in store. On Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20, Joe Marchio will ascend the podium at Nauset Middle School to conduct the Britten cantata, among other works, in the Chatham Chorale’s opening concert of the 2011-12 season. Portions of the cantata were written specifically for a children’s choir, and Marchio has called upon his predecessor Margaret T. Bossi to fill this role with her Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School Chorus.
The Chatham Chorale has performed great music on Cape Cod for more than 40 years. Joe Marchio has just completed his highly successful first season as Music Director, presenting works by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, as well as Copland, Gershwin, and others. Joe Marchio, who has a Master of Divinity degree from Yale, and a Master of Music degree from the Boston Conservatory, names Benjamin Britten among the composers he most admires. In addition to the Chatham Chorale, Marchio’s busy life of music and service includes posts as Minister of Music at the First Congregational Church in Chatham, MA, adjunct faculty member at Cape Cod Community College, and conductor of Boston’s Cantata 4 Ensemble.
For more information on upcoming Chatham Chorale concerts or to purchase tickets, please visit Chatham Chorale.