Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Speak as though never separate: A choral holiday season, part two

Carols old and new, Gospels and Winterfests, Bach and Menotti, and more.

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Robert Shaw's "Christmas Hymns and Carols, Volume II."
Robert Shaw’s “Christmas Hymns and Carols, Volume II.”

This is part two of our holiday choral guide; read part one here.

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In one of his famous letters to his singers, Robert Shaw reflected on Christmas carols: “Here the secular and sacred do meet and mingle, or perhaps most truly, speak as though never separate.” As you will see in the following concerts, the sacred and secular do embrace. Each program reflects the choir’s unique personality as they offer their own reflections on the season.

Elaine Hagenberg’s lovely Illuminare, mentioned in part one, just happens to be the cornerstone of the Corvallis Repertory Singers’ upcoming seasonal concert. In addition to the 35-minute work CRS choir will perform, according to their website, “carols old and new.” 

Corvallis Repertory Singers’ “Candlelight & Carols: Illumination of the Spirit” is Sunday, December 17, 3 pm at First United Methodist Church, Corvallis. Tickets are available here.

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The purity of freshly fallen powder, a refreshing draw of clean crisp air, the three toed footprints of foraging birds, the dark brown limbs poking out of crystals of white. Ahhh! Experience this in song, in Ashland, on December 16 and 17, at Southern Oregon Repertory Singers’ holiday concert “In Times of Softest Snow.” 

Sponsor

Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Southern Oregon Repertory Singers perform “In Times of Softest Snow” on Saturday, December 16 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, December 17 at 3:00 pm, both concerts at Music Recital Hall at Southern Oregon University campus, Ashland. Tickets are here.

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Gospel Christmas? Is it still going after 24 years? When is it this year? Don’t worry. On December 9 and 10 the Oregon Symphony Orchestra’s “Gospel Christmas” returns. Sacred gospel favorites like Go Tell It by Israel Houghton and Kirk Franklin’s Hosanna are performed by premiere gospel singers. It is always a holiday favorite. 

And, good tidings, OSO’s annual “Comfort and Joy” concert also returns on Wednesday, December 13. Little feet – and big – start tapping when the orchestra plays Victor Herbert’s March of the Toys; you’ll want to sing along when the combined OSO and Oregon Chorale musicians perform O Holy Night; and John Williams’ “Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone will melt your heart. Grab a warm cocoa and listen to it here.

The OSO “Gospel Christmas” is offered twice, first on Saturday, December 9, 7:30 pm and again on Sunday, December 10 at 2 pm, both at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Tickets here.

“Comfort and Joy” is on Wednesday, December 13, 7:30 pm, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Tickets here.

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Sponsor

Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

ISing Choir calls their season-opening concert a “Winterfest” and they are joined on Dec. 9 and 10 by the Big Horn Brass Trombone Consort. You will get both the romantic (Abendlied by Rheinberger) and the raucous (Gaudete by Steven Sametz) and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and motet Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden” (Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles). The traditional Trombone Consort joins the choir for several numbers but enjoy an authentic Baroque trombone sound when they get their sackbuts in gear for the Alleluja, freuet euch ihr Christen alle (Rejoice ye Christians loudly) by Andreas Hammerschmidt, German composer of sacred music and predecessor of Bach. Cool. Cellist Jerry Bobbe will also add to the holiday fare.

Hmmm, sackbut. Maybe this year’s holiday conversation safe word – whatcha think? 

ISing Choir gives us a “Winterfest” with the Big Horn Brass Trombone (and sackbut!) Consort on Saturday, December 9, 7:30 pm and Sunday. December 10 at 3 pm, both concerts at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, Beaverton. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Aurora Chorus opens its season with a journey into what Rainer Maria Rilke called “Inner Gardens.” The chorus chooses, as did Rilke, to find the ‘sacred’ in the stillness that Winter offers and to cultivate “vitality through the transfiguration of winter.” (Read Rilke’s ‘Inner gardens’ letter to a friend here).

Aurora taps our “Inner Gardens” on Saturday, December 16, 7:00 pm at First United Methodist Church, Portland. Tickets and more information here.

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Sponsor

Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

Inner gardens would be a perfect setting for Radix Vocal Ensemble, who are presenting a concert of birds – or is it words, or the words of birds. The enigmatic title, “Words are for the Birds,” clues us in on the energizing and uplifting personality of this treble ensemble. Their concert program is varied: from the rooted tones of William Billings to the vocal styling of Michelle Weir. There is a “rhyme” to the reason for the theme; go find out what that is on December 9.

Radix Vocal Ensemble sings “Words are for the Birds” on Saturday, December 9 at 3 pm, First Unitarian Church, Portland. Tickets and more information are available here; children 12 and under are admitted free.

Merry and Olde

What is it about Victorian-age apparel that screams “Carolers!”? The Festival Carolers’ afternoon of period dress-up won’t let you down. This family-friendly annual event presented by Festival Chorale Oregon is part sing-a-long and part story time. The FCO webpage says it is a “time for smiling and setting stress aside.” Hard to resist that, innit?

“Sing We Now of Christmas” is what Festival Chorale Oregon is going to do on Sunday, December 17, 4 pm, in Loucks Auditorium, Salem. Children 12 and under are free but must be ‘ticketed’. Adult ticket sales here.

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More Victorian costumes are donned by Eugene Concert Choir for “A Merry Olde English Christmas.” But if you are thinking ‘olde’-with-an-e predates Victorian you’d be correct. It’s a clue that Eugene Vocal Arts is also going to offer seasonal music – and revelry – of the English Renaissance for your enjoyment. 

Travel with Eugene Concert Choir and Eugene Vocal Arts to “Merry Olde England” on Sunday, December 10, 2:30 pm, in Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center. Tickets and information here.

Sponsor

Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

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There will be nothing “olde” about the Willamette Master Chorus’s holiday offering of “Carols for the Season” on December 16 and 17. But it will be merry and it will be a return of a favorite Salem tradition as WMC once again shares the stage with the Trail Sextet. And you will also get to hear the McKay High School choir who will sing alone and then join WMC for some of your favorite carols.

Experience “Carols for the Season” with Willamette Master Chorus on Saturday, December 16, 3 pm and Sunday, December 17, 3 pm, both concerts at Hudson Hall, Willamette University, Salem. Tickets are here.

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Fancy a bit of close harmony singing, barbershop style? Join our region’s award-winning trio of choirs – Vocal Summit, Pride of Portland and PDX Voices – as they share the holiday season in a combined concert on Saturday, December 9, 4 pm at Village Baptist Church, Beaverton. More information here.

Youthful Voices

It’s the 35th Anniversary year for the Portland Symphonic Girl Choir. In the late Spring they head out for their Carnegie Hall experience but right now they are inviting you to celebrate the holiday season with them.

Saturday, December 16, 3 pm, at Zion Lutheran Church, Portland. PSGC webpage is here.

Sponsor

Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

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Pacific Youth Choir singers are preparing two programs for you. On December 10 the younger singers present their Holiday concert. Then on December 17 you can enjoy the High School singers in “Radiant Light.”

The Pacific Youth Choir concerts are Sunday, December 10, 2 pm and Sunday, December 17, 2 pm, both at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland. Tickets here.

It’s Wonderful, It’s Marvelous

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus is gonna “Make the Yuletide Gay” on December 8, 9 and 10. They are promising their best holiday show ever and that’s saying a lot. “Inspired by classic variety and sketch shows—with a modern twist… a joyous and humorous extravaganza filled with holiday cheer” (from PGMC website). And there is one new member of the PGMC to cheer on. Garrett Bond, composer, pianist, educator and Portland State University grad, is PGMC’s new Associate Artistic Director. Congrats, Garrett.

Join Portland Gay Men’s Chorus to “Make the Yuletide Gay” on Friday, December 8, 8 pm, Saturday, December 9, 8 pm and Sunday, December 10, 3 pm, at the Newmark Theater, Portland. Tickets and more information here.

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Here’s to In Mulieribus for stepping out of the fray and programming concerts for midweek, December 19 and 20. But then, this women’s ensemble has always had a touch of the ‘outlier’ in their offerings. One moment we are appreciating their programming of ancient and renaissance works of underrepresented women composers and suddenly they are on stage with dazzling contemporary premieres. They’ve got it all and you will get their holiday best in “O Marvelous Night!”–carols and songs from around the world, of today and of long ago, with visions of hope and joy.

Sponsor

Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington

Join In Mulieribus for a mid-week “Marvelous Night” on Tuesday, December 19, 7:30 pm, St. Mary’s Cathedral and Wednesday, December 20, 7:30 pm, St. Philip Neri, Portland. Tickets are here.

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In Medio choir also invites you to a weeknight concert on December 21. If you are in the mood to join your friends and neighbors in a sing-a-long of some favorite carols with the talented musicians of In Medio, this is the concert for you.

In Medio’s Thursday, December 21 concert, “At the Holidays” is at 7 pm, Augustana Lutheran Church, Portland. The concert is free, with donations always appreciated, but tickets should be reserved ahead of time here

Twelve days and nights

Friday, December 22, seems to be the final pre-Christmas choral concert night in the Portland Metro and it is one that some of us look forward to every year: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. The Bach Cantata Choir will perform the first three (of the six) cantatas with the BCC Orchestra. It is such a joyous work, isn’t it? And you will also get to hear Isabella Leonarda’s Magnificat. This prolific Northern Italian baroque composer was widely heard and respected in her own region but is rarely heard here. BCC, championing the underacknowledged. Nice. 

The Christmas Oratorio movements 4-6 continue celebrating the feast days in the “twelve days” (like the song) of Christmas. To catch those last three cantatas, here is a spirited 1984 recording conducted by Helmut Rilling, who celebrated his 90th birthday this year.

Sponsor

Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (1-3) is presented by the Bach Cantata Choir on Friday, December 22, 7:30 at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, Portland. Tickets here.

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In Christian theology, the “12 days” are the span of time between the birth of Christ and coming of the three wise men, the Magi. Two events are offered in celebration of this period of time which ends with Epiphany on January 6.

On December 29 (Seattle) and 30 (Portland) Cappella Romana brings us “The 12 Days of Christmas in the East,” traditional and modern Greek Orthodox music fitting the joyous celebration. Note that there is only one Portland concert. 

And in Salem on January 6 and 7, St. Paul’s Episcopal Music Guild presents Gian Carlo Menotti’s touching Amahl and the Night Visitors. The one-act opera, complete with costumes and staging, will be great for the whole family. Children, in fact, will be offered special front row seating. It was premiered on, and in fact composed for, NBC TV, Christmas Eve, 1951.

Cappella Romana invites us to spend “12 Days of Christmas” with them in Seattle on Friday, December 29, 7:30 pm, at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and Saturday, December 30, 8:00 pm at St. Mary’s Cathedral Portland. Tickets are here.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Music Guild brings us the gift of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” on Saturday, January 6, 7 pm and Sunday, January 7, 4 pm, at St. Paul’s Episcopal, Salem. More info and tickets here.

Sponsor

Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

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Let’s invite the precious Amahl to close this choral preview. Here’s a 1978 television production to send you – with best wishes – into the season.

Connections

At home but still connected

The number of Live-feed and Video on Demand concert offerings is less this year. But there are still plenty of folks out there who are not able to attend live performance. You can give the gift of choral music with some of these continuing offerings:

Locally, Cappella Romana continues to offer On Demand, which they call their Digital Premieres, for all performances. Thank you, Cappella Romana.

Sponsor

Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

One of the nations’ top professional choirs, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, also maintains a Video on Demand series. Their summer season is a highlight, but they return to Santa Fe from near and far at the holidays and present several nights of great choral music. Find out how you can see this season’s program – and other past performances – by going to their website here

What a treat! Trinity Church Wall Street is live-streaming their Messiah performance on Thursday, December 14, 7 pm EST.  Trinity is celebrating the recent appointment of Melissa Attebury as their director of music education and outreach efforts, as reported this week in The New York Times. Attebury is the first woman to serve in this position; she will not be conducting but you can see her in a live backstage interview during intermission of this Messiah concert. This livestream event is FREE; just register here and you will receive a link for the performance which will begin at 4 pm in our Pacific Northwest.

Finally, check out the livestream offering on December 10, 3:30 pm of Bach’s Magnificat and Cantata 63, Christen ätzet diesen Tag by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Pennsylvania! More information here.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Daryl Browne is a music educator, alto, flutist and writer who lives in Beaverton, Oregon.

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