Chiltern Arts Presents Excerpts from Britten’s ‘Saint Nicolas’ Via Free-to-Watch Short Film

By Chris Ruel

Chiltern Arts presents excerpts from Benjamin Britten’s “Saint Nicolas” cantata via a free-to-view 20-minute video celebrating the story of Santa Claus.

Director Bill Barclay has created a powerful, spiritually uplifting film that anticipates the time when we will once more come together to celebrate musicmaking. The film features Royal Opera House tenor Nick Pritchard and British choral and orchestra conductor, Ken Burton. Burton served as choirmaster for the Oscar and Grammy® Award-winning blockbuster, “Black Panther.”

I Fagiolini, a British vocal ensemble specializing in both early and contemporary music, the City of London Sinfonia, and the Saint Nicolas Virtual Choir took part in the project.

Created when live performances were few, Chiltern’s presentation of “Saint Nicolas” explores the positive aspects of virtual music-making and all that’s been achieved, musically, during the crippling pandemic. Chiltern placed amateur singers and choirs alongside a team of highly acclaimed professional musicians, remaining true to Britten’s first major work for amateur musicians. The excerpts feature movements 1, 2, and 9.

The short film represents the first phase of Chiltern’s larger undertaking to create a filmed, full-length presentation of the work. The full film will feature scenes from Aldeburgh, the home of Britten; Snape Maltings, a leading center of music born of the Aldeburgh Festival, and the Red House, home of William and James Morris and the heart of the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and thinkers.

Britten’s “Saint Nicolas” opened the first Aldeburgh Festival founded by Britten in 1948. You can view the short film on Chiltern’s YouTube page and on the organization’s website.