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Where the Light Begins | Our 2023 Christmas Concert

We were so delighted to have a full house for "Where the Light Begins: Sounds of Christmas from Bach to Brubeck" on December 3. We are grateful to all who joined us as the season of Advent began, and thank our community of musicians--including our choir, the Tom Reynolds Trio, and talented musical guests--who shared so beautifully of their gifts. You can view the full livestream here.

Below are comments that our Music Director Hilary Donaldson shared as the concert began.

Our concert this evening weaves together two sounds that characterize worship at St. Andrew’s: the leadership of our choir, and the Tom Reynolds Trio. Sacred jazz has a long tradition in the church, and we’re delighted by the ways it inflects our weekly worship. Jazz is one musical form that thrives on improvisation, offering an unfolding conversation in music and rhythm. Riffing on this idea, tonight’s programme is patterned on an unfolding narrative thread found within the Biblical story of Advent: the canticles in the gospel of Luke. Many of the pieces you’ll hear tonight are settings of these canticles, or have texts that resonate with the ideas contained in them. The canticles are some of the most ancient Christian hymns, and as we retell and revisit their message during Advent, we can understand more and more how their story becomes our story.

As Zechariah welcomes into the community the Son God promised him, who he didn’t believe he would ever meet, he breaks his silence and utters the Benedictus:

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;

he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,

born of the house of his servant David.”

When a pregnant Mary and Elizabeth meet, in a rare Biblical scene depicted between two women, Elizabeth feels her child move within her and takes this as a sign of divine blessing. Mary, echoing much earlier words of the prophet Hannah, responds with the fierce words of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.

Angels bring news of a holy infant’s birth in an unlikely place, to unlikely people, and the angels sing the Gloria to the shepherds:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those who find favour with God.”

Finally, Simeon, who believed his whole life he would see God’s promises fulfilled, shares pensive words upon meeting the infant Jesus in the temple:

“Lord, now you are letting your servante depart in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples”

Composers throughout the ages have responded to these texts in myriad ways. Just now you’ve heard our own Tom Reynolds’ arrangement of a tune first written down in the fifteenth-century: “Unto us a Boy is born, King of all creation.” Later, you’ll hear the twentieth-century English composer John Tavener meditate on the idea of Emmanuel, God-with-Us, by emulating ancient Byzantine chant through the lens of the English cathedral. You’ll hear meditations on these texts by some of Jazz’s living composers, including Torontonian Faith Amour, and jazz band headliner Deanna Witkowski.

Each year we retell an old story, made new in our song; this evening, as Advent begins, we welcome you to the story.


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