Adding to the odd mix of pieces, the youthful Christmas Oratorio by Saint-Saens welcomed a leaner audience (many of the families with young children left) after the intermission. Saint-Saens music is remembered and enjoyed because it tends toward the beautiful as opposed to the innovative – not that innovative has to be ugly.
Saint-Saens, at the ripe age of twenty three, wrote the Christmas Oratorio in eleven days. The work’s placid harmonies and swooping melodies radiated from the orchestra and the chamber singers. Solos for soprano (Linda Tsatsanis), mezzo-soprano (Melissa Plagemann), alto (Tessa Studebaker), tenor (Stephen Wall) and bass (Brian Box) were delightfully shaped by the afternoon’s soloists.
I am confident that no other orchestra, choral ensemble, or chamber group performing a holiday concert this year featured a program of Prokofiev, Bozza/Kechley, or Saint-Saens. Like oil and water, these composers and the piece’s chosen for Orchestra Seattle’s holiday concert, don’t mix. This is precisely what Shangrow wants and what OSSCS observers expect. Days after the concert, I am still not sure how I feel about the collective impact of the choices. Making sense of it all, trying to deduce a purpose for the program has been maddening. Making sense of a concert, however, isn’t as important when you have a community orchestra that plays and a chorus that sings as well as OSSCS.