November 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018, at 7:30 pm at Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center, at 4235 Mar Vista Dr, Camarillo, CA.

Sunday, December 2, 2018, at 3:00 pm at First United Methodist Church of Ventura, 1338 East Santa Clara Street, Ventura CA.


Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921), best known for his opera “Hansel and Gretel,” circulated among the most creative and innovative German musicians of his day – including Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Julius Stockhausen. He held significant teaching positions in Barcelona, Cologne and Frankfurt while at the same time composing popular stage works. He collaborated with the distinguished theatrical and film producer Max Reinhardt, writing incidental music for his productions in Berlin.

“Hansel and Gretel” began as a family puppet show in 1890, and then developed into a string of 16 songs with piano accompaniment and connecting dialogue. By 1891 Humperdinck completed the orchestration of a full scale opera, loosely based on a version of the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm published in 1812. The overture gives some musical indications of the rather scary Medieval plot involving a starving brother and sister left to wander in the woods by their parents, who come across a wicked witch and are lured into her delicious candy cottage. Eventually the children successfully outwit the witch, demonstrating the power of good over evil and find their way home.

Humperdinck’s powerful operatic presentation of the metaphysical theme led to several historic cultural developments: a navigation element called “breadcrumbs” (referencing the trail that the children invented to find their way home) and in 1977 a main belt asteroid 9913 was named Humperdinck after the composer – alluding to intergalactic wayfinding.

Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) was an extraordinarily prolific composer writing, amongst numerous works, 7 symphonies, 11 operas, 3 very popular piano concertos, more than 100 songs and 3 beloved ballets, the The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. The Nutcractker Suite is a 20-minute piece extracted from the ballet and at the time of the original production of the ballet in 1892, enjoyed more popularity than the 85-minute dance performance.

The score quickly became one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions, noted among other things for its use of the celesta, the sweet, tinkling accompaniment – “a heavenly sound” according to the composer – to the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The eight “danses caracteristiques” which comprise the Suite – with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Trepak, (the Russian Dance) the Arabian Dance, The Chinese Dance, the Tarantella, the Marche, the Reed Flutes segment and the Waltz of the Flowers – all have haunting, memorable melodies attributable to their international appeal.

The Suite was first performed in 1892 under the composer’s direction with almost every number encored at this premiere. The ballet itself became a venerated standard in the ballet repertoire when it was choreographed by George Balanchine for the New York City Ballet in 1954 and has been presented at Christmas every year since then.

George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759), born the same year at Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti, moved from his German domicile at the age of 27 to settle in London, eventually to become court composer to King George 1, and a British citizen.

Handel’s compositions include 42 operas, 29 oratorios, more than 120 cantata, 16 organ concerti, and four coronation anthems which are still performed centuries later at such royal events. His most famous work, the oratorio “Messiah” with its “Hallelujah” chorus, is among the all-time popular works in choral music.

In 1717 the “Water Music” was performed on the River Thames for the King and his guests – a royal tradition that was repeated during the present Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday salute.

London’s reverence for Handel was notable at the 2012 Olympic Games in London when

“The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.” was performed a the opening ceremony.

An inventive composer, Handel often introduced previously uncommon musical instruments to his orchestral works, including the harp for which he wrote the Harp Concerto in B-flat major for “Alexander’s Feast“.

In this joyful piece, the orchestra is somewhat subdued to allow the harp to take center stage in the three movements.

The British composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934), most noted for his dramatic orchestral suite “The Planets,” and the British poet Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) came from very different cultural backgrounds. Holst had Nordic ancestors and Rossetti’s parents were immigrants from Italy.

It is not clear whether they met in England, (Holst would have been 20 in 1874 the year Rossetti died) but their families certainly moved in similar artistic circles of writers, painters and musicians. Christina’s brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a significant painter and illustrated the covers of some of his sister’s books. Holst was a music teacher at several prestigious academies, including St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London. He studied music with fellow contemporary Ralph Vaughan Williams who introduced him to Ravel redirecting him away from Romantic German masters Wagner, Strauss and Mahler.

Christina Rossetti wrote “In the Bleak Midwinter” in 1872 and its five verses were published as a poem in “Scribner’s Monthly.” It wasn’t until 1906 that it appeared, set to music, by Holst in the English Hymnal, where It was named “Cranham” referring to a country cottage in Devon, where the piece was composed.

The poem itself is a recreation of the nativity story, in a northern climate. Some people consider it a literary interpretation of the Creation. Whatever the analysis, it has become a staple in the Christmas carol repertoire ever since.

Choir Director and noted pianist Miriam Arichea conducted the Rubicon vocal troupe Harmonix – aka the Broadway Juniors – from 2011 to 2017 and has chosen familiar Harmonix songs orchestrated by CHICO bassoonist Cavit Celayr-Monezi. Rubicon aficionados will recognize holiday tunes such as, “Shine On” a Chanukah inspired number, featuring soloist Cassidy Craig, “Joy to the World”, “St. Nicks” from past productions of the Rubicon Family Christmas. Arichea has selected two groups of youthful singers – one composed of school age students from 12 – 15 (4 boys and 6 girls) – and a second group of five local college students from Ventura College, UCLA and CSUCI. The seasonal selection includes two carols arranged by the most successful internationally recognized choral composer and conductor John Rutter.