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December 6, 2012

Voices of the season

Choral Society to perform Russian hymns, Christmas carols

The Newburyport Choral Society has spent months preparing for this weekend’s annual winter concert.

Late last spring director Gerald Weale informed the 100-plus singers who make up the chorus of his selections for the concert program, set for this Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Rehearsals began several months ago.

The chorus’ loyal audience, many of whom return each year for the holiday program, will not be disappointed, says singer Mary Ann Lachat. The program lives up to the Choral Society’s reputation for offering diverse, interesting pieces, complete with an orchestra and soloists. she said.

“It’s always a mix of holiday music and very often, music that perhaps reflects different parts of history or the world,” she said. “It’s really noted for its variety.”

Weale chose the dramatic piece, “Magnificat,” by 20th century British composer Jonothan Willcocks as the centerpiece for this year’s concert.

“We’ve done it once before, about nine years ago, and it went well,” Weale said yesterday. The large work consists of five contrasting movements that can overlap at times while rapidly changing its rhythm. Soprano Meredith Kelly will perform a solo.

The Choral Society will also perform a set of a cappella liturgical hymns by Russian composers Rachmaninoff and Chesnekov. Rachmaninoff, a “brilliant pianist” composed the pieces for the Russian church, and the hymns follow in that church’s canon law which prohibits the use of instruments during worship.

The hymns are “luxuriant harmonies,” Weale said, and “lend an incandescent quality to the timeless words of the liturgy.”

“They are so beautiful,” Lachat said.

The concert will also include a performance of the song “Rhythm of Life” from the musical Sweet Charity. It is the first time that the chorus has performed a tune from a Broadway musical in quite a while, Weale added. Show tunes are often geared towards soloists and don’t translate into works for a full chorus, he said.

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