Monday, 20 November 2023

In Presepio, The Concert

by Daniela Grech Sultana

In-Presepio-PosterwebWell-renowned for their mesmerising Christmas concerts, Schola Cantorum Jubilate will return to Ta’ Pinu National Shrine on the 29th of December at 19.30 with In Presepio, a concert commemorating 800 years since St. Francis of Assisi’s first live crib.

 In Presepio will rebuild the nativity scene: not with stone or papier mâché, but through the transcendent beauty of choral music, each illuminating a central personality in the Christmas Story.

Back in the 13th century, the very first crib was born during a mass in which St. Francis said the sermon. A manger with hay, an ox, a donkey and a baby were set up to recall the hardships Jesus suffered, even as an infant - a Saviour who became poor for the sake of humanity. In Presepio seeks to construct a musical crib, emphasising the key elements within: the baby, the mother and father, the manger, the animals, and the Wise Men.

Following up on last year’s highly acclaimed and impressively attended O Magnum Mysterium, this year’s concert promises yet another unforgettable selection of Christmas carols, both old and new. “Every year, we do our best to find a new and appealing repertoire that challenges the choristers’ musical abilities, and at the same time allows the audience to enjoy a fresh auditory perspective”, notes Marouska Attard, SCJ’s Conductor, soprano, and the only Maltese graduate in choral conducting. To achieve this, In Presepio’s repertoire features a blend of Christmas classics by Mendelssohn and Wagner with works by British composers John Rutter and David Willcocks, and lesser known modern and contemporary pieces by Jēkabsone, Hayes, Culloton, Roche, Archer and Pitts. A central piece in Maltese Christmas celebrations, Ninni La Tibkix Iżjed will be presented with a new musical arrangement by Paul Portelli. The audience will also be treated to Admirabile Signum a piece recalling St. Francis’ dream of reliving the first ever Christmas, newly composed by Portelli, with lyrics by the talented Francesco Pio Attard.

In Presepio features pianists Anna Magrin and Amy Borg, organist Joseph Camilleri, the BrassTubes, who have collaborated closely with SCJ, and two out of the three SCJ groups: the SCJ Adults Group and SCJ Youths, all under Marouska’s direction. “All choir groups have been having intensive rehearsals since September and the programme is all taking shape nicely. The concert guarantees to be a feast for the ears thanks to the different voices within SCJ, the festive sounds of the BrassTubes led by Mark Gauci, and that of our own organist and pianists,” adds Marouska.

SCJ’s latest concert will take the audience on an equally spiritual and artistic journey, surrounded by Ta’ Pinu National Shrine’s subtle majesty. As SCJ Artistic Director Stefan Attard notes, the choir strives for innovation and creativity, with a meticulous search for detail: “We try to bring forth ‘beauty’ through various forms of art, starting with our carol selection, the deep dives into literature, the use of architectural space, choreographies and last but not least, technology. We want to leave another beautiful memory in the attendees’ soul album, helping them forget their burdens and to leave the venue with renewed hope for a better tomorrow.” And as Stefan Attard continues, “This year, our attendees will be involved more than ever,” so those attending are certainly in for a treat.

In Presepio will artistically and profoundly recall the 1223 event in Greccio that shaped Christmas and Christian tradition, and humanised the nativity story for generations to come. It is, ultimately, a celebration of the values underpinning the season of peace and love, weaved through music and St. Francis’ crib.

Join SCJ on its choral journey. Entrance to In Presepio is free and no booking is required.

In Presepio is being organised in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Directorate, Ministry for Gozo

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