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J. Shane Mercer, Published December 05 2009

Review: Concordia Christmas Concert close to perfection

The Concordia Christmas Concert on Friday night was what Concordia Christmas Concerts tend to be: a string of very well-executed, frequently beautiful and, every now and then, absolutely other-worldly musical treats.

Perfect? Not quite. More about that later. First, the fantastic music.

The performance opened with some beautiful work. “Shepherd Me, O God” was gloriously lovely, being followed by a short and fetching rendition of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

“There is no Rose of Such Virtue,” which was composed by Artistic Director René Clausen, brought forth a subtle complexity as well as unearthly harmonious that were strange in the best sense of the word.

The beauty continued, but as the next few lovely pieces came and went, I began to sense that the concert might be a bit monotone in terms of variety. That was before men’s choir busted out “Betelehemu” with hand drum accompaniment, African-style droning and rhythmic vocals. The number then moved to yet groovier drum parts and more emphatic, spirited vocals that made me want to bob my head like the lady next to me and the guy in front of me.

And all this beautiful, acoustically produced music was visually anchored by Paul Johnson’s beautiful, computer-generated mural that stretched across the stage and employed every color that Adobe Illustrator can create – in a good way.

If there was a downside on the night, it was distraction. During “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness,” three individuals held long rods from which paper doves were suspended and appeared to fly over the audience.

A cool trick, but one of the sticks had a run-in with a suspended speaker stack, and there was some distraction as someone tried to get the attention of one of the bird-guiders for some reason.

A snare drum was also either knocked over or bumped in the orchestra pit, creating a distracting noise.

Nitpicky? Maybe. Fortunately, there was more than enough perfection in the air to make up for it.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734