I sat on the front row for an excellent performance of Bach's Wachet auf cantata yesterday evening, in St. Andrew's Church, by candlelight. The church choir there is directed by a well respected Ottawa musician, Thomas Annand, and includes professional or semi-professional soloists, so was bound to be worth hearing. The cantata includes two duets for bass and soprano soloists that are supposed to be dialogues between Christ and one of the "wise virgins" representing the receptive Christian soul, but are composed as love duets, the two voice parts answering and winding seductively around one another. Click here to hear what I mean.
The choir sang Cantata No. 65 as well, written for an Epiphany service in Leipzig: the accompanying orchestra included two French horns and a cor anglais used here as a substitute for the oboe da caccia Bach composed for, which soon afterwards became obsolete.
The female soloists also each sang an aria—one from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and one from the Magnificat (I knew them both)—the choir added three modern, unaccompanied Christmas anthems beautifully and softly sung, and at the end the congregation was allowed to join in with four carols. From where I stood, adjacent to the orchestra and close to the choir, I could watch the conductor and pretend to be one of the performers. I liked that.
Chris and I also spent a couple of hours or more singing carols in harmony at a friends' house on Saturday night. I had no voice left even for conversation after that, but it did put us in a Christmassy frame of mind.