In many respects, the "Joys of Christmas" presented by the Cambridge Singers Sunday afternoon at Holliston United Methodist Church in Pasadena proved yet another prototypal holiday sampler. But director Alexander Ruggieri varied the repertory with a few pieces by local composers.
Andrew Glick's new "Solsticium"--the premiere occurred Friday night in Santa Monica--is a rambling, brooding meditation on the Druidical celebration of the winter solstice. There are agreeable echoes of Distler and Penderecki, but the finale, based ironically on "Good Christian Folk Rejoice," stumbles turgidly to an anticlimax.
The "Cantate Domino" by Joseph Kantor, organist at Temple Beth Am, is a much more vigorous, albeit vexingly repetitious, effort. Sydney Johnson's brief "Gloria," composed while he was teaching at Glendale High School, places a similar reliance on rhythmic vitality, though in a less sophisticated harmonic setting.
The rest of the program ranged from Alfred Burt carols to predictable pieces by Gibbons and Praetorius, including Kirke Mechem's delightful "Seven Joys of Christmas" and audience sing-alongs. A nicely sung, stylistically naive account of Pergolesi's Magnificat was the central work.
Ruggieri elicited well-balanced and blended singing from his 31-voice choir, enhanced by Holliston's resonant acoustic. Though not invariably perfect in pitch or ensemble details, the Cambridge Singers treated all pieces with equal affection and verve. Neil Wright offered pointed organ and piano accompaniments, and a small string group backed the Magnificat.