World Premiere by James Kallembach – The Tryal and Examination of Old Father Christmas: A Masque for Choir and Organ at Old South Church, Friday, December 19

This year’s Candlelight Christmas concert will present an intriguing world premiere. Titled The Tryal and Examination of Old Father Christmas: A Masque for Choir and Organ, the piece is a newly commissioned work for chorus SATB, soli, organ and gavel by composer James Kallembach. The work features Chorus pro Musica as Father Christmas, bass-baritone Ryne Cherry, as the judge, tenor Ethan Lobenstine as Gregory Grudgemeat, bass Anthony Amoroso as Mr. Allwork and soprano Tori Cook as Mrs. Prudence.

Award-winning, highly regarded composer and conductor James Kallembach is Director of Choral Activities at the University of Chicago and his chamber music and choral works have been performed throughout the United States and Canada, from San Diego to Chicago to New York.

“I am honored to write for this stellar choir with a great history under talented new leadership,” states Kallembach on his website:

“I have always been drawn to early American history and Boston, in particular, so I chuckled at the thought of Puritan Christmas at Old South Church, seeing as early Boston was particularly adverse to holidays, and Christmas, it seemed, was particularly despised!” he continues. “Indeed, the Pilgrims spent their first Christmas building their first civic structure and John Winthrop, the founder and first governor of the Commonwealth, generally declared it a day of fasting and prayer.”

Kallembach is mesmerized by these early Puritan settlers of Boston and their rigid ways of outlawing Christmas and in fact, all holidays. The text he used for the 20-minute composition comes from The examination and tryal of old Father Christmas; together with his clearing by the jury, at the assizes held at the town of Difference, in the county of Discontent, written according to legal proceeding, by Josiah King.  Licensed, August 10, 1677, Josiah King, was a British contemporary of the Puritans in Boston.

Additional text used by Kallembach is from The Bay Psalm Book, of which Old South Church has owned 3 original copies, one of which Old South sold at auction at Sotheby’s New York for $14,165,000 in 2010. The 1640 Cambridge, Massachusetts, Whole Booke of Psalmes, or “Bay Psalm Book” was the first book printed in British America, the first book written in British America, and the first book printed in English in the New World. The Bay Psalm Book is a religious and cultural manifesto of the Puritan Fathers and a towering icon of the founding of the United States.  More information here:

Old South Church is the perfect setting for Kallembach’s piece. The original Old South Church congregation was a descendant of the fusion between separatist and dissenting Pilgrims, Puritan reformers and Bay Colony merchant adventurers, who left England in the 17th century, some to escape persecution, and others to forge a more prosperous life in the New World.