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December 19, 2013

Joyeux Noel

Boston Camerata brings 'A French Christmas' to Newbury

Even though they spend the rest of the year traveling the world, the members of the Boston Camerata make sure they spend the holidays at home.

“There is a very deep anchor in this place,” said Anne Azema, artistic director. “And it sort of anchors you in the season in a beautiful way.”

An Amesbury resident, Azema worked her way up from soprano to her current position, taking over for husband Joel Cohen in 2008. She is excited not only to be home but to be presenting the company’s annual Christmas concert, “Noel, Noel: A French Christmas,” at Newbury’s First Parish Church this Saturday. The group will also perform the show in Cambridge today and Lexington tomorrow.

“Yes, we are world travelers, but we are very happy to come back here because this is where our home is,” Azema said. “It is very important for us to perform once a year in our own community.”

Featuring music from the Middle Ages to the dawn of the Baroque period, “A French Christmas” is Camerata’s 10th local Christmas production and will feature contralto Deborah Rentz-Moore; bass-baritone Donald Wilkinson; countertenor Michael Collver; brass players Steven Lundahl, Brian Kay and Lisa Malmut; soprano Camila Parias; tenor Daniel Hershey; and bass Joel Frederiksen. And while the music is centuries-old, the energy level of the performance is not.

“We do older music, but we are a very energetic ensemble,” Azema said. “Our performance style is not full of cobwebs. We are a very lively bunch.”

Speaking to the French tendency to export their finest things, this weekend’s concerts will intentionally mix the “higher” forms of musical expression, such as Gregorian chants, in the first act with the more common folk songs in the second, “lower” act.

“The first part is a reflection on this mystery of what happens during this season,” Azema said. “It’s the story of a wait. We are in the coldest part of the year, and you have a wait for something strange and new, a search for light, a search for something anew. That’s really the first part.

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