December 21, 2013, 230 pm.  $25 reg/$15 stu.  Advance tickets available - click here.

Conrad Grebel College Chapel, University of Waterloo, 140 Westmount Rd N

Modern Solutions for the Messiah Weary:  The Little Match Girl Passion

As any concert goer knows, December in North America heralds not only the beginning of the holiday season, but also the tidal wave that is Handel's Messiah. The Open Ears Festival wishes to offer, to those who seek holiday cheer but have already crossed off every possible permutation from their Messiah bucket list, a remarkable and poignant alternative that we suspect may instigate a tradition of its own. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's still resonant story about the dreams and death of a young girl, and drawing inspiration from Bach's St. Matthew Passion, composer David Lang has written a work that we believe speaks directly to our time even as it delves into the past.

The Little Match Girl Passion, here performed in its original scoring, is sung by a standard vocal quartet who also accompany themselves on percussion.  The piece sounds sometimes like a minimalist soundscape, and at other moments like plainsong spun under the ogives.  Eschewing a maudlin interpretation of the text, Lang gently illuminates the dichotomies that make this fairy tale so compelling - her suffering versus her hope, sweet memories and cold realities, our sorrow of death and the joy of freedom - and the similarities between her experience and that of Jesus.  

David Lang is a co-founder and co-artistic director of Bang-On-A-Can, a faculty member at Yale and Oberlin, Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year and Carnegie Hall’s 2012-13 Composer-in-Residence.  Premiered in 2007 in New York, The Little Match Girl Passion won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music and its first recording won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.


Katherine Hill, soprano

Patricia O’Callaghan, mezzo-soprano

Lucas Marchand, tenor

Dallas Bergen, bass

“Anyone who clings to the prejudice that contemporary classical music is incapable of the most direct beauty should put down this magazine and listen to the Theatre of Voices' recording.  If you never come back, I won't blame you." - Alex Ross, The New Yorker

AuthorGregory Oh