Choir’s ‘angelic voices’ open holiday season with DecemberSong


Courtesy / Carter Brannon

Student choir manager Rylee Brad- shaw prepares for Decembersong.

Carter Brannon, Crier Staff

The Saint Anselm Choir’s angelic voices richly blended at their 23rd Annual DecemberSong Saturday, December 3.

The Advent concert was held in the Abbey Church, and was not only a musical but a prayerful experience.

“It’s a beloved tradition here at St. Anselm and even beyond,” Director of Liturgical Music and Adjunct Professor of Organ and Sacred Music Eric Bermani said. “There are people in the Manchester area whose Christmas traditions include coming to this event.”

DecemberSong began as an Advent and Christmas concert under director emeritus Fr. Bede Camera. Bermani has been directing it since 2016.

“[In the past, DecemberSong] consisted of different readings and relevant anthems and Christmas carols,” Bermani recalled. “I’ve maintained the format largely but have modified it somewhat to resemble a service of Lessons and Carols patterned off of King’s College.”

The concert began with a prelude of choral, organ and violin music, followed by a song the choir sang from the vestibule before processing back to the choir stalls.  

“I’ve seen that done in several places, and it just has a beautiful and haunting effect,” Bermani explained.

The service continued with more than a dozen choral anthems, hymns, and chants between readings from Genesis, Isaiah, and the accounts of the Nativity of Christ.

Some of Bermani’s favorite DecemberSong pieces are arrangements by Sir David Willcocks including “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” “Away in a Manger,” and “The First Noel.”

“I find his choral writing to be masterful, and for me, many of those arrangements just personify Christmas,” Bermani said.

Most of the music is sung in English or Latin, with some German and Middle English included this year.

A common favorite piece is the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah by Handel, which the choir sings near the end of the concert. The choir begins practicing that piece in September to sing it at DecemberSong and the Christ the King Mass the Sunday before Advent.  

“You know you gotta end it with the biggest number that takes all semester to learn,” Rylee Bradshaw, ‘25 remarked. “I like hearing all of it.  It’s just awesome.”

Bradshaw, the choir manager and an alto singer, said she loves DecemberSong, but it involves a lot of work.

“I personally really like it. I love the songs we sing. I love the darkness when we all process in with the candles,” Bradshaw said. “Coming from a choir manager perspective it’s much more stressful.  Eric [Bermani] has like a thousand pieces of music and I have to like to organize all of it, put them in files, and make sure people have all of it. It’s very stressful.”

“I love Christmas music. Out of all of the sacred music repertoire, the Christmas repertoire is probably my all-time favorite. I love the season anyways, and to make music with the choristers is just one of the highlights of what I do,” reflected Bermani. “I think that just the sheer act of participating in it and seeing the choristers work on [pieces like] the Hallelujah Chorus. Working on this stuff since our first rehearsal in September and seeing it come to fruition: that’s probably my favorite part of it.”

Mariana Stauble practices the organ in the Abbey Church before her Decembersong performance. (Courtesy / Carter Brannon)