Monday, December 22, 2008

Music for Christmas

The Washington Chorus presented its annual Music for Christmas concert at the Kennedy Center. The concert has proven to be one of Washington's most beloved family celebrations of classic Christmas favorites along with exciting new arrangements and audience sing-alongs. The performance featured massed choruses with brass, organ, and percussion.

Under the baton of new music director Julian Wachner, the chorus performed Still, Still, Still (Norman Luboff), Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day (John Gardner), and Bogoroditsye dyevo (from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers). The chorus gave Mr. Wachner its undivided attention and invariably performed each selection impeccably.

As part of The Washington Chorus' Side-by-Side program to annually recognize and feature local high school choirs, the Annandale Singers, under the direction of Carleen Dixon Webb, performed Lirum Lirum (Thomas Morley), O Magnum Mysterium (Tomas Luis de Victoria), and I Wonder As I Wander (John Rutter), for which the soprano soloist was exceptional.

Coral Cantigas, the only Latino chorus in Washington, also has begun a partnership with The Washington Chorus. The group performed traditional carols from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. They exhibited exceptional energy and precision, and the vocal and instrumental soloists were incredible.

After intermission, the brass and percussion played a short interlude as the basses lined the upper rows and the women and tenors processed on O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. The combined choirs then did the Gloria from Misa Criolla (Ariel Ramirez) and The Dream Isaiah Saw (Glenn Rudolph).

Earlier this season, The Washington Chorus presented Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B Minor, and this spring the chorus will present Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers (All-Night Vigil).

The Music for Christmas concerts were held on Saturday, December 20 at 4 pm at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall; Sunday, December 21 at 5 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore; and Monday, December 22 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Messiah Sing-Along at Kennedy Center

Join a 200-voice choir, professional soloists, and an exuberant audience in Washington's most popular free holiday event, the glorious sing-along of George Frideric Handel's beloved masterpiece Messiah.

During the Christmas season, Messiah sing-alongs are conducted across the United States, from Los Angeles to Denver to Northampton, Massachusetts. In Washington, people gather from all over the world to join in one of the largest and oldest audience-inclusive Messiah sings.

Conductors for the event include Barry Hemphill, artistic director of The Metropolitan Chorus, A. Scott Wood, conductor of The Amadeus Concerts Inc, and Terry Sisk, accompanist for The Metropolitan Chorus and organist, handbell director, and manager of the resident string orchestra at Vienna Presbyterian Church.

The chorus will be comprised of The Metropolitan Chorus, Fort Washington Community Chorus, The Northern Virginia Chorale, NVCC Annandale Chorale, and Prince George's Choral Society along with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Soloists include Jessica M. Stecklein, soprano; Linda Maguire, mezzo-soprano; Colin Eaton, tenor; and Robert Burner, baritone.

The concert will held on Tuesday, December 23 at 8 pm in the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall. Follow this link for details.

Glorious Sounds of Christmas

The Vienna Presbyterian Church Music Ministries, with more than 165 musicians, will present Glorious Sounds of Christmas, a delightful program of traditional Christmas music featuring the sanctuary and youth choirs, brass, strings, handbells, percussion, and organ. The audience also will have opportunities to sing well-loved Christmas carols. Escape the hustle and bustle of the Christmas rush and see why this exceptional event is one of the highlights of Vienna’s holiday season. A second performance has been added this year to accommodate the overwhelming demand.

Terry Sisk, who is serving as accompanist for The Metropolitan Chorus this season, also serves as organist, handbell director, and manager of the resident string orchestra at Vienna Presbyterian Church. This is a wonderful opportunity to invite family, friends, and neighbors to enjoy the wonderful gift of music with the community.

The concert will be held on Sunday, December 21 at 4 pm and again at 7 pm. Admission is free, although offerings will be accepted. Follow these links for directions and parking.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Evening of Brass & Bells

The Metropolitan Chorus continues its 2008-09 season with Brass & Bells, a family holiday concert featuring the Virginia Bronze handbell ensemble (pictured above). The program includes traditional and contemporary arrangements of familiar selections such as The Holly and the Ivy, Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, and Sleigh Ride. The audience also will have the opportunity to participate during sing-alongs of Silent Night and O Come, All Ye Faithful.

Based in Alexandria, Virginia Bronze is a nonprofit community-based auditioned handbell ensemble comprised of 16 ringers and conducted by music director Carol Feather Martin. The group performs 5-6 annual concerts covering a wide range of handbell music including secular, sacred, popular, and original pieces.

The Brass & Bells concert will be held on Saturday, December 20 at 7:30 pm at the Thomas Jefferson Theatre, 125 S Old Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22204 (see map or get directions).

Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for senior/military, and $5 for youth. Tickets can be purchased online or by telephone or mail. Group discounts are available, and free parking is provided.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Jazz for Children

Several members of The Metropolitan Chorus, along with members of the Alfred Street Baptist Choirs and Westminster Presbyterian Church Choir, helped comprise the chorus for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s (ASO’s) Children’s Holiday Concert.The program was held at Alfred Street Baptist Church, with some 500 in attendance. Everyone had a wonderful time, enjoying the various jazz selections, Christmas carol sing-along, and reception of holiday treats. Mind you, this was not ASO’s full orchestra, but a 15-member jazz powerhouse featuring various sax, clarinet, flute, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, and drum.

The program began with ASO’s ever-energetic Kim Kluge conducting Duke Ellington’s arrangement of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite (Op 71a). Ellington arranged an adaptation of the suite for his orchestra in 1960, featuring selections such as Toot Toot Tootsie Toot (aka Dance of the Reed-Flutes), Peanut Brittle Brigade (aka March), and Sugar Rum Cherry (aka Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy). To help foster the children’s imagination, Kluge also read excerpts from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the fairy tale on which the ballet was based.

The program continued with up-tempo jazz arrangements of Santa Clause is Coming to Town, Sleigh Ride, Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Then the chorus helped lead the audience in a sing-along of Christmas carols including O Come, All Ye Faithful; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Joy To The World; Silent Night; Deck the Halls; Jingle Bells; and We Wish You A Merry Christmas. And what children's concert would not be complete without Santa Claus!

Founded in 1803, Alfred Street Baptist Church is home to the oldest African American congregation in Alexandria and has served as a prominent religious, educational, and cultural institution. During its 205-year history, the church has had only eight pastors.

In appreciation of the concert, members of the Alfred Street Baptist Choirs extended invitations to The Holy Night, a Christmas festival of music, drama, liturgical dance ministries, and carol sing-along to be held at the church on Sunday, December 21 at 5 pm.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wachet auf - Music for the Christmas Season

Adding a little Renaissance to the Christmas season, The Ron Freeman Chorale presented an afternoon of German and Latin motets featuring Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme by Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach and O Magnum Mysterium by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Other selections included:
  • Missa "O magnum mysterium" by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

  • Duo Seraphim clamabant by Samuel Scheidt

  • Angelus ad pastores ait by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck

  • Resonet in laudibus by Roland de Lassus
  • Hodie Christus natus est by Claudio Monteverdi

  • Hodie Christus natus est by Heinrich Schütz

Founded in 1977, The Ron Freeman Chorale typically performs music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods but also presents works by 19th and 20th century composers. The group is comprised of some 20 voices and often performs 16th century a cappella works, sometimes for double choir. For many years, the chorale has provided Good Friday services at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, DC.

The concert was presented on Sunday December 7 at 3 pm at the Church of the Covenant in Arlington, Virginia.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Feast of Carols

The Northern Virginia Chorale presented its Christmas concert, A Feast of Carols. The program included several traditional as well as contemporary arrangements of Ave Maria; Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming; This Christmastide; and Mary Had a Baby. The audience also had opportunities to sing O Come, All Ye Faithful; Silent Night; Deck the Hall; and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. The chorale was accompanied by organ as well as brass, percussion, and guitar.

Of particular interest was Gloria by Randol Alan Bass. The chorale performed the selection exceptionally well, and this was fortuitous because The Metropolitan Chorus also will be performing this piece at their Brass & Bells concert on December 20.

From its inception in 1975, The Northern Virginia Chorale has sought to present performances of distinguished choral music from a variety of genres including classical and contemporary. Under the leadership of artistic director Robert S Webb, Jr, the 70-voice chorale has achieved a well-earned reputation for providing the community with high-quality performances. The chorale will be partnering with The Metropolitan Chorus for the Messiah Sing-Along at the Kennedy Center on December 23.

The concert was held on Saturday December 6 at 8 pm at Saint Mark's Lutheran Church in Springfirled, Virginia.

Messiah Sing-Along at First Presbyterian Church

The 21st annual Messiah Sing-Along was held in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Arlington. In keeping with this time-honored tradition, The Metropolitan Chorus' artistic director Barry Hemphill (pictured above) was on hand for one of the most joyous musical expression of the Christmas season. More than 250 participants brought or rented scores, and many brought food or made monetary donations to the church for those in need.

Everyone gave their utmost during choruses such as And the Glory of the Lord and For Us a Child is born, and the ever-powerful Hallelujah. The soloists in particular exhibited exceptional levels of proficiency, and the instrumentalists provided all the necessary warmth and precision.

The sing-along will be performed again at the Kennedy Center on Tuesday, December 23 at 8 pm. This time it will feature a 200+ voice chorus (including The Metropolitan Chorus and The Northern Virginia Chorale), professional soloists, and a fervent audience.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Light Up the Night

The Met Singers joined The Beltway Brass Quintet in celebrating the start of the holiday season by performing Christmas carols during the Light Up Rosslyn ceremony. The program included selections such as Joy To The World; O Come, All Ye Faithful; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; and We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Hot chili and cocoa, provided by Santa Fe Cafe, helped stave off the evening's wind and drizzle.

The program was held under WJLA's JumboTron and hosted by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID), Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division, and Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN).

After the welcome and remarks by Tom O'Neill (VP, Rosslyn BID), Kathleen Sibert (Exec Dir, A-SPAN), and Walter Tejada (Chair, Arl Co Board), WJLA's meteorologist Doug Hill arrived to flip the switch to light up the top perimeters of buildings in Rosslyn. This year, Light Up Rosslyn went "green," with many properties replacing the current holiday lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs.