On December 9th, hundreds of music lovers gathered at Kirkpatrick Chapel in New Brunswick to hear Rutgers University’s annual holiday concert, “Christmas in Carol and Song.” The night outside was icy, but the chapel was warm and inviting, decorated with evergreen branches and glowing with candlelight.
This year’s concert featured a diverse selection of Christmas music that ranged from medieval plainsong to African American spirituals to traditional sing-along carols. The standout pieces, though, were two compositions by Dr. Colin Britt, Choir Director and music teacher at Rutgers Prep.
The university’s Kirkpatrick Choir sang “There Is No Rose,” a medieval carol with mixed English and Latin text that has been set by composers as diverse as Benjamin Britten and Sting. Dr. Britt’s interpretation featured delicate, unexpected harmonies and swelling sounds that tapered away to a final, sweet “Alleluia.”
The Rutgers University Glee Club gave the world-premier performance of the second piece, the lullaby “Once As I Remember,” which was written especially for them. Dr. Britt’s music, with its pulsing rhythm and chant-like singing, lent the piece an air of mystery, and its rising harmonies gave one a sense of climbing from darkness to light.
Dr. Britt, who is also a Rutgers University alumnus, said of the performances, “There is really nothing like hearing a group of musicians bring life to your music for the first time. You spend hours, days, weeks working on a piece and laboring over each note and chord progression, but you don't really know if it's going to work until you hear actual human beings performing it.” Hearing his works performed is, “absolutely enthralling…I am truly grateful every time someone programs or performs my music and brings their own unique interpretation to the composition.”
Sepehr Gharavi, a Rutgers Prep graduate of the Class of 2016 who now sings in the university Glee Club, called Dr. Britt’s composition “one of our best pieces,” and said of the concert, “I loved being part of something so fulfilling.” Everyone lucky enough to have heard the wonderful music that night no doubt feels just the same.