“A BLAZING STAR DID SHINE”: Quinebaug Valley Singers’ Christmas Concerts

STURBRIDGE – The Quinebaug Valley Singers are in the thick of rehearsals for an upcoming pair of Christmas concerts: Saturday, December 9th at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Joachim Chapel of St. Anne/St. Patrick Parish in Fiskdale (corner of routes 20 and 148), and Sunday, December 10th at 3 p.m. at the Charlton Baptist Church on Hammond Hill Road, just off route 20.

This year’s choral offerings for the holiday season are unusually varied and rich.  References to angels and stars abound—giving rise to the program’s title, which was drawn from one of the pieces, “Out of the orient crystal skies.”  This is a program of mysterious, magical works—pieces where light blazes out of darkness, and where out of deep silence heavenly choirs sing—pieces that will transport you far away from the here and now of Christmas shopping and department-store Muzak.  As Music Director Nym Cooke puts it, “Our music this time around favors the ancient and the timeless—the opposite of pop, the antithesis of commercial.”

Composers range from Johannes Eccard (b. 1553) to Daniel Kantor (b. 1960).  The offerings include arrangements of English folksongs; a world premiere of a piece by Music Director Cooke; “In the bleak mid-winter” in two musical settings; an aria from Handel’s Messiah sung (as it originally was) not by a female alto but by a male countertenor; “Gaudete! Christus est natus” from the 16th century; “Huron Carol,” whose text was originally in the native American Wyandot language; “A Christmas Carol” by American composer Charles Ives; and “Dark the Night,” with music from Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and a text by Cooke.

All but two of the pieces have never been sung previously by the Quinebaug Valley Singers.  Half of them were suggested by members of the chorus, and half were selected by Music Director Cooke.  QVS’s own Sarah Jo Burke will enliven several songs with her fine flute and drum playing.  The concerts will start with the chorus’s youngest member, 14-year-old Audrey Clark, singing the opening verse of “Once in royal David’s city.”  And of course they’ll end with everyone singing familiar Christmas carols together—a QVS tradition.

After the concerts, audience members are invited to join the singers to sample some delicious eats and drinks supplied by chorus members.  The libation is free, as are the concerts themselves; a freewill offering will be collected at intermission.  Both concert locations are handicap-accessible.  Plan to arrive early to be sure of a seat!

For further information about the concerts or about joining the Quinebaug Valley Singers, contact either chorus President KT Therrien (Kt2nc@aol.com) or Music Director Nym Cooke (nymcooke@gmail.com).  You can also go to the chorus’s Facebook page (Quinebaug Valley Singers – QVS) or their website (www.qvsingers.org).  QVS is always looking for singers—especially tenors and basses.  The Spring 2018 season begins on the first Monday in February.

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