Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Christmas concert

Al-Ahram Weekly

CHRISTMAS carols date all the way back to the 12th century, writes Ati Metwaly, illustrating Sherif Sonbol’s image of the Cairo Opera House Christmas concert, when St. Francis of Assisi’s reforms paved the way for the joyous spirit that could be brought to people during the festive season. The tradition of singing carols declined in the 16th and 17th centuries to return later. Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts, was first published in 1719, while Stille Nacht (Silent Night) was written in 1818 by the German priest Father Joseph Mohr and O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam was first published in 1847. Apart from carols that carry religious themes, there are secular songs, often about winter, included in the tradition. One of the best known among those is Jingle Bells written in the mid-19th century by James Lord Pierpont; curiously, this winter song was originally composed for Thanksgiving celebrations, and now, with lyrics slightly changed in the modern version, it is among the biggest hits of Christmas. Egypt has never been short of Christmas accents. Though Egypt’s streets seldom show the typical Christmas spirit, many musicians do not forget to adorn the season with a few Christmas concerts, performing them in many venues across Cairo and Alexandria. And hence the Cairo Opera House Chrismas tradition — resumed this year.
Concerts were planned for 12-13 December but postponed due to political turmoil; this year the Alexandria concert was cancelled altogether. Usually the concert is performed by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nayer Nagui, yet this year the conductor led the Cairo Opera Orchestra, of which he is a principal conductor and artistic director. As usual, the Cairo Celebration Choir joined in the evenings, along with the soloists form the Cairo Opera Company and elsewhere. The Christmas spirit filled the hall when the orchestra, with a total of 17 soloists and Cairo Celebration Choir, began to perform.
The audience was treated to over 20 compositions, many of them returning from the previous years: When a Child is Born, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas Carols, What Child Is This, coming all the way from the 18th century The First Nowell (based on a Ukrainian folk chant, the Carol of the bells as well as the hymn Adeste Fideles, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Caccini’s Ave Maria as well as Schubert’s Ave Maria, and many others. The concert ended with the secular 16th-century English carol We wish you a Merry Christmas.

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