Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Special: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

This Sunday Special, Gentle Readers, is brought to you thanks to my Aunt Dorothy, through whom I have discovered a Berlin-based vocal ensemble reinventing Christmas carols. But before I get to the Berliner Solistenchor, there is Bach. Don't tell the liturgical police, but I'm a week late, as this cantata was written for the first Sunday in Advent, to celebrate the beginning of the new church year. Still, I am a believer in Bach at all times:

Isn't it lovely? The useful Bach Cantatas website has extensive information on it here. In considerably simplified form, it survives in many Protestant hymnals, making it a candidate for the creative talents of the Berliner Solistenchor.

In a video trailer for the "Old/New Christmas carols" concert (viewable here, auf Deutsch,) the director of the chorus, Christian Steyer, has said that what fascinates him about the chosen carols is the tension of contrasts. "Light is connected with darkness, joy is connected with pain, warmth is connected with cold. And in the texts which move me especially, these [opposites] are always colliding with each other." Rather cheekily, he also describes the new arrangements as "bringing a new shoot out of an old root." And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots,  and ye shall have sweet jazz stylings on "Joseph lieber, Joseph mein." If you're in northeastern Germany, be advised that the group is taking this concert on tour this month; details on their website. Update: even if you're not in Germany, you can purchase the "Old/New Christmas carols" cycle on CD here, or download it here.


  1. Wait wait wait. How did I not hear about these people? The musical factions of Berlin have posters and playbills and other assorted ephemera all over the city, and yet I managed to miss this one?! Am now checking them out to add to my musical schedule. Thanks for cluing me in!

  2. @Christie Hooray for the internet, where knowledge of exciting concert events can come from an aunt in CA to me in NY to you in Berlin! :) Apparently Streyer composed the new arrangements as a cycle for piano and choir. I hope you do get to hear them perform; please write it up on the blog if you do!


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