NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 5, 2013

Merry melodies

Newburyport Choral Society presents annual Winter Concert

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — To open its 80th season, the Newburyport Choral Society is bringing both something new and something old to the table.

For the first time, the Molin School Children’s Chorus will participate in the Winter Concert, which is next weekend at the Belleville Congregational Church in Newburyport. The group of about 40 fourth- and fifth-graders will join the choral society for “Wither’s Rocking Hymn” and “Patapan.” The children will also present two pieces on their own, “Cape Cod” and “The Swallow.”

It will also be the first time that the Molin chorus has been accompanied by a professional orchestra.

“I think the two pieces we’re going to sing together with the chorus and the orchestra and the Molin school choir are going to be a real thrill for all of us,” said Gerald Weale, music director for the choral society.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Gina McKeown, the Molin chorus’s music director. “To be able to sing in a forum with a professional-level chorus and orchestra and to work with someone like Jerry is a great opportunity they will always remember.”

“They’re going to be ready and do a fine job with us,” said Weale, who added that the two choruses will rehearse together for the first time on Monday. “I expect it will be a good experience for them.”

The Molin chorus was founded in 2011 by McKeown and assistant director Allison Balentine as a way to increase creative arts programs at the school. The children meet twice a week after school for eight weeks each fall.

“Singing and performing in a chorus ignites a passion that will continue throughout their lives,” said Molin School Principal Tara Rossi, who will serve as a guest conductor at one of the two performances. “I’m very proud of them. They sound fantastic.”

In addition to the pieces with the Molin chorus, the first half of the concert will also include Benjamin Britten’s “A Hymn to the Virgin” and “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen, along with an audience singalong on four familiar Christmas carols.

Rossi, who has been singing in choruses and musicals since the fourth grade, will lead one of the carols on Saturday. On Sunday, the guest conductor will be Winnie Martin, who has been singing with the choral society for 37 years.

The second half of the concert will feature the first section of perennial favorite Handel’s “Messiah,” which the group hasn’t performed for several years.

“It’s probably the most popular piece of choral music ever written,” Weale said. “It’s been done more than any other single piece because it is so popular with audiences and choruses alike.”

Weale thought the choral society’s 80th anniversary was the perfect time to bring back the holiday classic.

“It’s like visiting a well-known and beloved friend,” he said.

Ending with the famous “Hallelujah” chorus, “Messiah” will feature four guest soloists: Robyn Lamp, an Australian-American soprano who placed third in the Gulf Coast Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 2012; Kaitlin Bertenshaw, a mezzo-soprano who was a soloist with the Masterworks Chorale of Boston; and tenor Jordan Weatherston Pitts and bass Erik Van Heyningen, who have appeared in several productions with the Boston University Opera Institute.

If you go

What: Newburyport Choral Society Winter Concert

When: Saturday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15, at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Belleville Congregational Church, 300 High St., Newburyport

How much: $22 for adults, $20 for seniors and students if purchased in advance at www.newburyportchoralsociety.org; $25 at the door