Thursday, December 9, 2010
Not your father's Christmas concert
There was a palpable puzzlement at the hour-long de Angelis Vocal Ensemble "Annual Holiday Concert" when the nearly full audience Basilica in San Juan Capistrano came to the realization that only two of the selections were familiar Christmas "tunes." Well, probably not for the die-hards who know full well what to expect when this taut a cappella sixteen member singing group performs: the programs usually containe undiscovered gems, premieres of new works, and old texts (sacred and secular) freshly cast into new music or new arrangements. That is really what makes de Angelis a standout in Orange County's crowded choral music scene, and the fact that they do it so well is a testament to its artistic director Matthew Gray, whose gently instructive, light, brief introductions of each piece make the Basilica feel like you're in his living room. Smartly taking advantage of the opportunity to address the crowd about supporting the ensemble, its volunteer managing director Lesa Truxaw keeps it short and heartfelt--no doubt, one of the reasons why the de Angelis donor list seems to be growing along with its ticket-buying audiences. Pacific Chorale's leadership was there on Sunday, too, to hear the concert: music director John Alexander and president Kelly Ruggirello--another sign that this six year old vocal organization is attracting serious attention. They will be back in March.