Thursday, 07 March 2024

A look back at In Presepio

by Stefan Attard

If we listen intently, we can still hear the notes of In Presepio wafting in the air and we find ourselves humming the tunes that accompanied us throughout the past Christmas period. But for our choristers and the many people behind In Presepio, our annual Christmas concert goes far beyond the notes on a manuscript.

In Presepio was a journey; both in terms of our realisation of it, and in the concept and event that it recalls. 800 years since St. Francis’ first crib, we attempted to recreate the joy and wonder of that first reenactment. Baby Jesus, once heard of in sermons or read about in the Scriptures, lay in a manger, for all to see. The simplicity and poverty he was born into, there for all to experience; the smell of the hay and the animals that brought comfort and warmth; Mary and Joseph, standing close, aware of the momentous event they witnessed, of their paths from there on.

The concert revolved around St. Francis and this dream of his: to recreate the event of events, for all to see. Our audience accompanied our St. Francis as his crib was built, not through clay or papier mâché, but through a carefully selected repertoire of choral music, each piece highlighting a main personality in the nativity story.

The In Presepio repertoire featured 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. No Maltese Christmas concert is complete without Ninni La Tibkix Iżjed and our talented choristers and musicians delivered this piece with a new musical arrangement by Paul Portelli.

During In Presepio we also launched our latest original composition, Admirabile Signum. Composed by Paul Portelli, with lyrics by Francesco Pio Attard, the piece recalls St. Francis’ dream of reliving the first ever Christmas. We’re overjoyed that it was so marvellously met by our audience!

As we close the doors on yet another memorable Christmas concert, we can’t not mention the amazing musicians who accompanied our choristers: Anna Magrin and Amy Borg on the piano, Joseph Camilleri on the organ, and the BrassTubes who have for long collaborated closely with SCJ - as well as our brilliant conductor Marouska Attard. And of course our choristers: the SCJ Adults Group and SCJ Youths whose dedication to all our musical adventures continues unwavering.

Last but not least, a big thank you to you, our audience, who continue to support us and our projects year after year. You give us the impetus to continue exploring the world of choral music and to create unique concepts to deliver equally unique concerts. Thank you!

In Presepio was organised with the support of the Cultural Heritage Directorate within the Ministry for Gozo.

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