Lex de Azevedo threw a Christmas party Monday. It was filled with music, of course bright, toe-tapping jazzy music, old-fashioned caroling music, spiritually uplifting "reason-for-the-season" music.
But there was also heritage reminiscences of Christmases past woven into the context of a musical life and family and friends gathered together to share the joy of the season.
There were also twinkly decorations that captured the magic of the season. And above all, there was a festive feeling of harmony and good will.
With de Azevedo at the piano, and with Christian Parry, Matt Clayton and Dan Chamberlain rounding out the jazz quartet, and the Millennium Choir doing the vocals, the party began with an upbeat that never let down.
The choir sang with energy and excitement, creating beautiful harmony and interesting vocal effects on the jazz arrangements: a lively "Jingle Bells"; a dramatic "We Three Kings" that managed to sound both ancient and contemporary; a medley of snow-related tunes that brought warmth to the stage; a striking "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
They were equally adept on a medley of Alfred Burt Christmas carols, all done a cappella, almost as if they were out caroling in the frosty air.
The mood shifted, but not the quality level, on a segment of excerpts from de Azevedo's "Gloria," an oratorio based on biblical accounts of Christ's birth. With film footage of a performance in Jerusalem as an introduction, the choir captured the joy and majesty of this old, old story. They were helped in that task by special guests Melinda Lockwood and George Dyer. Lockwood's beautiful voice captivated and charmed as Mary; Dyer's rich tenor imbued the Angel Gabriel's words with power and emotion.
The piece was originally scored for an 85-piece orchestra parts that de Azevedo played with 10 fingers. "Don't try this at home," he joked. "We're professionals." But his piano work throughout was quite amazing.
There were other standout performances: Lockwood also excelled on a tender, poignant "Breath of Heaven"; choir soloist Holly Caten sparkled in a lively and fun version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." One Voice Children's Choir brought sweetness to "Joy to the World." The young singers also added a true angelic touch to "Angels We Have Heard of High."
The evening even included home movies scenes of the King Singers, accompanied by the "20-year-old geek" de Azevedo, which provided a nice segue into a special family moment.
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