Most composers of Christmas music go for the glory, but Berlioz in his oratorio, "The Childhood of Christ," went for the spirit of the child. The work, performed last night at St. Matthew's Cathedral by the Catholic University Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Robert Hicks, tells of birth, fear and the flight into Egypt. It is a remarkable piece, as pure as the idea of Christmas and beyond the corruption of sentimentality.
The Music School of Catholic University did itself proud, no sin in this instance. The chorus was of a piece, within the simplicity of the music, imbued with its sincerity. The choral passages in Part III were especially effective, blending into one great instrument. The orchestra played sensitively and subtly, particularly in the interludes of the final section. The Trio for two flutes and harp has never been played with such fearless virtuosity.
The soloists brought distinction to difficult parts, Robert Baker as Narrator, Ann Hart as Mary, Glenn Cunningham as Joseph and Vladimir Ekzarkhov as the Householder. Each one was exactly right in character and sound.
This was as close to the definitive performance as we shall get in some time. Berlioz would have approved.