Society’s 65th holiday concert will be a worldly, ‘solo’ sensation

Northern Choral Society Concerts, shown rehearsing in 2017, will perform Dec. 7 and 8 in Watertown. Watertown Daily Times file

WATERTOWN — The Northern Choral Society’s 65th annual Christmas concert will feature tunes from around the world.

“I love her theme this year because we’re so divided with strife and turmoil in society and everything,” said Northern Choral organist Carl A. Bingle, who will return to the keyboards for his 42nd season for this year’s concerts.

Northern Choral Society director Sara D. Gleason has selected, “One Baby, One World,” for the theme of the two concerts — at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Asbury United Methodist Church, 327 Franklin St.

Mrs. Gleason has taken advantage of a heightened interest in the 65-member choral group among soloists. An unusually high number of singers auditioned for solo parts this year.

“We aren’t gaining numbers per se, but we’re gaining new singers,” she said.

“Generations are passing through Northern Choral. I’ve seen it after how many years?” said Mr. Bingle. “Auditions were really strong this year. You could not just let these people go without hearing them. They’re good voices.’

Mrs. Gleason’s excellent selection of soloists allowed her to fine tune the program. For example, for “A Feast of Carols,” featuring French and English carols arranged by Randol Alan Bass, Mrs. Gleason took passages from the diverse “Feast” to match the skills of the soloists: Sonny Mitchell, Duane LaTouche, Sara Goutremout and Kevin Kitto. All the soloists, except for Mr. Kitto, are new to Northern Choral.

“She heard them and had to find a place for them,” Mr. Bingle said.

The concerts will open with the traditional “O Come, All ye Faithful,” with audiences invited to join in.

For the featured selection, Mrs. Gleason has returned to Charles Gounod’s “St. Cecilia Mass,” which premiered in 1855 in Paris. Last year, the chorus performed its third movement from the Latin mass. This year, it will perform “Gloria,” the Mass’s second movement.

“We liked it so well, we’re working backwards from the Mass,” Mr. Bingle joked.

Other concert highlights:

— “Scots Nativity,” by Alan Bullard, with traditional Scottish texts and a solo by Maggie Graves.

— “Wana Baraka,” a Kenyan folk song, sung in Swahili and a cappella, arranged by American composer Shawn L. Kirchner. He learned the traditional religious song through a delegation of Kenyans at a 1994 international gathering in Ghana.

— The traditional Irish tune “The Wexford Carol,” arranged by American composer Howard Helvey. Francis Winters will solo on the piece.

“It’s just a beautiful haunting melody, in a good way,” Mrs. Gleason said.

In addition to Mr. Bingle on organ, “The Wexford Carol” will feature his wife, Janet, on piano.

— “Hydom, Tiddlydom,” a traditional Czech carol arranged by American composer Mark Burrows.

“I ran into this while looking around,” Mrs. Gleason said. “Hydom is the sound of bagpipes and tiddlydom is the sound of drums.”

The Northern Choral singers try to replicate those sounds.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Mr. Bingle said. “And it’s really quite funny.”

— The singers will join the Northern Choral Society Youth Choir, directed by Marietta Kitto, for the American folk song, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” arranged by English composer John Rutter.

— Separately, the youth choir will three selections, including “A Caribbean Noel.”

— The River Ringers Handbell Choir, directed by Jennifer Whitenack, will perform three selections.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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