Monday, December 14, 2009

“An Antidote to Bland Holiday Music” – CONCORA and “Christmas in the Americas”

“ antidote to bland holiday music”
“...tasty music that often explored the unfamiliar”
“...lovely and sometimes haunting”
“...fresh and engaging”
“...a memorable sonic meditation”
“...CONCORA performed with charisma”
“...brilliantly performed”

Any choral group would be delighted to receive any one of those accolades in a concert review. The Hartford Courant’s review of CONCORA’s performance of “Christmas in the Americas,” given yesterday at Hartford’s Asylum Hill Congregational Church, included all these words of praise, plus a whole lot more. Here’s the entire review of CONCORA’s “Christmas in the Americas”:

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Alternative Holiday Music From CONCORA

There are more shades in the repertoire of holiday music than one might imagine based on familiar radio fare. The antidote to bland holiday music was to go “live.” CONCORA's program “Christmas in the Americas,” at Asylum Hill Congregational Church, hit the spot. I already feel better.

This was tasty music that often explored the unfamiliar. Even the carol “Away in a Manger” was not the tune that plays in your head at its mere mention. Instead, it was arranged in the setting by William James Kirkpatrick from 1895, and it sounded fresh and engaging.

It was the last of three carols that were sung in various configurations by the audience with CONCORA. We received the music with our programs. The texts were lovely and sometimes haunting. “Not all carols involve sheep and reindeer,” said CONCORA music director and conductor Richard Coffey.

CONCORA performed from both the front and back of the church, from the organ loft and encircling the audience. The ensemble sang “Ya viene la vieja,” a Spanish carol, arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw, while moving from the back of the church to the front.

Highlights included a crisp performance of the Missa Brevis No. 4 in E Major (“Divinum Mysterium”) by Healey Willan (1880-1968).

Within the “United States Suite,” they performed a setting of “Long, Long Ago” (for women's voices only) by Carlisle Floyd. It embraced a bluesy sound world, brought in and out of focus as polyphonic textures grew from lines inspired by folk music. A “Noel” (for men's voices only) by Steven Sametz also impressed in a performance that was angular, articulate and bouncy.

After intermission we heard a set of “gallery carols” sung with organ accompaniment. “O lux beata caelitum,” (for women's voices only) by Mexican composer Francisco Alcantar was a memorable sonic meditation; a music of waiting and anticipation.

In the “Latin American Suite,” several soloists were featured. Steven A. Mitchell (minister of arts and music at the church) and Alain Frogley balanced effectively in the 17th-century tune “Convidando está la noche” by Zéspedes, Thomas F. Cooke and Stacey S. Grimaldi brought strong dance-like energy to the Kyrie from the “Missa Afro-Brasileira” by Carlos Alberto Pinto Fonseca, and Jessica Nevins, contributed as soprano soloist in the Spanish carol “Esta noche nace un Niño” arranged by Andrew Carter.

The program closed with two spirituals: a bittersweet arrangement of “Mary Borned a Baby” by Noah Ryder and “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” arranged by Donald McCullough, which CONCORA performed with charisma, led by soprano Christine Laird. It was a harmonious program and, as always with this ensemble, brilliantly performed.

“Alternative Holiday Music From CONCORA”
Jeffrey Johnson, The Hartford Courant, December 15, 2009,0,1284658.story

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If you’d like to “go live” and experience CONCORA’s magic in person, call the CONCORA office today to reserve seats for our spring concerts. CONCORA tickets make perfect holiday gifts!

BACH! – Motet Madness
Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 4:00 p.m.
(Snow date: Monday, March 1, 7:30 p.m.)
Immanuel Congregational Church, Hartford
CONCORA continues its perennially popular “Bach!” series with “Motet Madness,” a concert of all six incomparable motets, accompanied by 10-piece instrumental ensemble. CONCORA, which last performed all the motets on a single program in 2000, is the only ensemble in the area that offers so much Bach and does it so well. Don't miss it.

Music of the Spirit
Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.
St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church, Hartford
CONCORA’s season closes with a return to the resplendent Church of St. Patrick and St. Anthony in Hartford, for a program of evocative, virtuosic repertoire for unaccompanied choir, featuring works by Martin, Howells, Macmillan, Orban, Pärt, Tavener, Messiaen, Whitacre, and others.

Call the CONCORA office at 860-224-7500, or visit the CONCORA website at

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