Saturday, November 19, 2011

“This will be my favorite! … No, this one!” Rehearsing CONCORA’s “Christmas Through the Ages”

“This will be my favorite! … No, this one! … Oh, this one!”
That was my experience last night during our first rehearsal for CONCORA’s upcoming holiday concert, “Christmas through the Ages,” which we will present on December 11 in Hartford, December 16 in Hampton, and December 22 in Norfolk (details below).

As we rehearsed each selection, I found myself thinking, “This is so wonderful…it will probably be my favorite piece on the program.” Then we’d move to the next one: “No, this one!” and so on. By the end of the rehearsal, I gave in and put them all on my imagined “Favorite Piece of This Concert List.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised; as usual, Mr. Coffey has put together a truly beautiful program. “Stunning!” was Claudia’s assessment, and Jessica said, “One of the best ever!” As Trish pointed out, it’s just one of his many gifts: the consistent ability to program a concert that offers scope and breadth, varieties of texture and mood, beautiful texts, and a perfect balance of familiar favorites and new works to be treasured.

From the singer’s perspective, too, the program offers a wealth of other treasures. First, there’s some pleasantly challenging vocal music, which of course we love – CONCORA singers really love digging into difficult music, not only to master it technically (which we do) but to perform it beautifully. The jubilant setting of “Alleluia! A New Work Is Come on Hand” by Peter Wishart fairly dances off the page with intricate rhythms and complex textures. It was so gratifying to sing with a group that could read this almost perfectly the first time through, and then, after some work on polish, text, and interpretation, to sing it with the verve and exuberance that can emerge only when the music has been mastered.

We also enjoy the opportunity to sing new or unfamiliar arrangements of beloved old songs. For example, this program includes an over-the-top arrangement of “Masters in This Hall” and an astonishing, ravishing setting of “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen” by Swedish composer Jan Sandström. If for no other reason, you must come to the concert to hear the Sandström. It is…extraordinary.

Then there are the unexpected small gems, such as Otto Goldschmidt’s intimate setting of “A Tender Shoot,” or the very French, very lush “Hymne à la Vierge” by Pierre Villette, and from our own Colin Britt, a truly beautiful new setting of the old text “There is no Rose.”

At the end of this post, you may see the entire program.

We had a terrific rehearsal: everyone arrived prepared, in good humor, and ready to work. We quickly found our collective voice and made great progress through the three-hour session, working through nearly all the music on the first half of the program. We meet again this afternoon to take our first pass through the rest of the repertoire. It will be wonderful. And I’m sure I’ll find some new favorites.

I do hope that you can be part of CONCORA’s special holiday celebrations! More information about these concerts may be had by contacting the CONCORA office at 860.293.0567 (online at or

More of my essays on the life of a chorister, and more about choral rehearsals and choral music, may be found here:

“Christmas Through the Ages”

Sunday, December11, 2011, 4:00 p.m.
Center Church, 60 Gold Street, Hartford, Connecticut
Snow date: Monday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Friday, December 16, 8:00 p.m.
Hampton Congregational Church, 163 Main Street, Hampton, Connecticut
Presented by the Hampton Recreation Commission
$10 admission, accompanied children free; reservations recommended

Thursday, December 22, 8:00 p.m.
Infinity Music Hall & Bistro, Route 44, Norfolk, Connecticut
Information, Tickets, and Directions: or 866-666-6306


A Choral Prologue from the 18th century
Johann Sebastian Bach “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light” (from Christmas Oratorio)

A Choral Procession
“Masters in This Hall” Traditional French carol, arr. Mack Wilberg

From the 19th century
“A Tender Shoot” Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907)
“In Dulci Jubilo” Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856)

From the 20th century
“Alleluia! A New Work Is Come on Hand” (1953) Peter Wishart
“Hymne à la Vierge” (1967) Pierre Villette
“Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming” (1995) Michael Praetorius, arr. Jan Sandström

From the 21st century
“There Is No Rose” (2007) Colin Britt
“Sleep, Little Baby, Sleep” (2010) Robert Cohen
“Glory to the Christ Child” (2005) Alan Bullard

Your Turn! – An Audience Sing-Along
“See Amid the Winter Snow” John Goss, arr. David Willcocks
“God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” Traditional, arr. David Willcocks
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” Traditional, arr. John Rutter


Solo for Organ: a setting of the German chorale "Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern" by American composer Mark Sedio, performed by Jason Charneski

Music from the Gallery
“Oculi Omnium” Hieronymous Praetorius (1560-1629)
“While by My Sheep” (echo carol) 17th century German carol, arr. Hugo Jüngst
“In the Bleak Midwinter” (1911) Harold Darke
“Ave Maria” (2006)John Rutter
“Sir Christemas” (from Ave Rex) (1970)William Mathias

For Fun!
The Pie Carols (2010) Words and Music: Daniel Gawthrop
Pumpkin Pie • Cherry Pie • Apple Pie • Lemon Meringue Pie • Pecan Pie • Rhubarb

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