Alleluias and hand bells will ring out as the 90-voice Chester River Chorale heralds Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza with their 19th annual presentation of A Chester River Holiday, celebrating the season of jubilation, good will, and awe with songs of reverence, remembrance, and hope for peace.
For the fifth year in a row, the 22 treble voices of the Chester River Youth Choir will join in for the celebration in the beautiful sanctuary of the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown for two performances, the first at 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 1, and the second at 4 p.m. Saturday, December 2.
“There’s something for everybody in this program,” said Douglas Cox, artistic director. “Programming for A Chester River Holiday is one of my favorite things to do because of the many musical possibilities it offers. The holiday season brings out an array of music from many faith traditions, as well as secular favorites that are ever present in the American holiday experience.”
A cascade of bells, strings, and harp will set the holiday mood before the Chorale launches into Exsultate Justi, written 1987 by John Williams for the soundtrack of Empire of the Sun to express the jubilation of prisoners liberated from a Japanese internment camp. The triumphant piece, sung in Latin and reminiscent of centuries- older church music, is associated with the holidays from many holiday performances presented by The Boston Pops during Williams tenure as music director.
Another piece in Latin follows, this one an excerpt from a Vivaldi 18th century Gloria. The Baroque masterpiece will be followed by an excerpt from a 20th century gospel-style Gloria in English.
Lo V’Chayil, sung in Hebrew and English, will call for putting aside the use of might and power in favor of making peace. Another, Cuando El Rey Nimrod, a rousing Sephardic folk song with roots in the Ottoman Empire, tells of the birth of Abraham, who will father the Jewish nation. It is sung entirely in Ladino, the Spanish-Hebrew dialect of Iberian Jews.
Songs of love and Christmas, and yearning for the holiday celebrating the humble nativity in Bethlehem, along with some popular seasonal standards—some of which the audience just might be asked to join in on—pepper the program.
Assistant Director Michelle Sensenig will be singing soprano when she is not directing several of the pieces in the program including a show-stopping arrangement of the traditional spiritual Go! Tell it on the Mountain. Another Chorale soprano, Julie Lawrence, will direct the Youth Choir, which she founded at the Garfield Center for the Arts, in three songs, including a spiritual and a Norwegian folk song. The Youth Choir ranges in age from 8 to 15, meaning that, counting the Chorale as well, the singers will range in age from 8 to 80 plus.
The Youth Choir will also perform an a cappella piece with the Chester Chamber Singers, the auditioned subset of the Chorale.
The Chamber Singers will then perform what Director Cox describes as “a set of ancient carols set to exquisite new music by Minnesota composer, Stephen Paulus, with a harp and oboe accompaniment.”
Sammy Marshall, the Chorale’s accompanist, will play the piano. Other instrumentalists, besides the harp and oboe, include a five-piece string ensemble, flute, organ, and percussion.
Suggested donations at the door are $15. No tickets will be sold. The Chorale has been performing to full houses for the past several years, so patrons are urged to come at least 15 minutes early to be assured of being seated.
Chorale members are amateur singers drawn mainly from Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. If you love to sing, come join us in January for our upcoming 20th anniversary season. No audition is required.
The Chester River Chorale is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded in part by the Kent County Arts Council and by an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive.
The CRC’s mission is to provide opportunity, education, and inspiration for amateur singers to strive for artistic excellence. CRC performances entertain diverse audiences and enrich the cultural life of the community. For more information, click here or call 410–928-5566.