Orcas Choral Society annual Christmas concert

Harmonically embracing the holiday season, the Orcas Choral Society will present the annual “Joyous Sounds of Christmas” concerts on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 13 at 2 p.m. at the Orcas Center. The program of seasonal music features “Magnificat” by John Rutter as well as familiar carols, songs from other times and cultures, caroling with the audience, and a wide variety of instrumental accompaniment.

Director Catherine Pederson has crafted a program of past favorites as well as new pieces for her final holiday concert as Choral Society director. She co-founded the Orcas Choral Society with Louellen McCoy 33 years ago and has announced her retirement after the 2009/10 season, which will end after the spring concerts in May.

“Magnificat” is a work comprised of seven very diverse sections. The text is taken from a passage of St. Luke (chapter 1, verses 46-55). Rutter had wanted to write his own musical version of this passage and found that his interest in the Virgin Mary inspired him to compose not only in the traditional form but to follow Bach’s example and add to the liturgical text with the medieval English poem “Of a Rose” and the prayer “Sancta Maria.” It premiered in Carnegie Hall in 1990.

Patty Johnson is the piano accompanist for the Orcas Choral Society. The musical ensemble performing on “Magnificat” include: Scott Heisinger, Pamela Wright, violin; Lisa Humphrey, viola; Dale Heisinger, cello; John Humphrey, string bass; Linda Slone, flute; Karen Blinn, oboe; Bob Littlewood, clarinet; Judy Whiting, bassoon; Becky Johnson, French horn; and Jim Shaffer Bauck, timpani and percussion. Some of these instrumentalists will perform on other pieces throughout the concert. Vocal soloists for “Magnificat”are Terri Triplett, Margaret Doyle-Stevens and Holly King.

“Above the Northern Lights” holds a unique spot in the program. It was recorded by the very popular group, Mannheim Steamroller and it appears on two of their CDs. The music was written by Chip Davis of the group and the lyrics were written by Orcas Island’s own Ed Wilson. The vocal solo on the recording was done by another Orcas Islander, Gene Nery. For the first time this song will be performed as a choral ensemble with the choral part arranged by soloist Nery. The original recording sessions by Mannheim Steamroller will provide the prerecorded instrumentals. Platinum records were given to these artists for selling over one million copies of the CDs with the song “Above the Northern Lights.”

Traditional carols, ranging from popular and sacred medleys to Mozart’s very festive “Sing a Song of Merry Christmas,” remind the audience of the many pleasures and sentiments of the season. The A Capella piece, “A Glimpse of Snow and Evergreen” by Vijay Singh truly reflects a quiet moment of a northwest winter. A text from Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows” is used in the cheerful song “Joy Shall Be Yours in the Morning.”

In contrast to the previous images of cold and winter are two pieces reflecting warmth and well-being. Charly Robinson and her Ukulele Band accompany the Orcas Choral Society wearing their imaginary grass skirts on “Christmas Island” by Lyle Moraine.

“Wana Baraka” has been a favorite of singers and audience over the years. It is a Kenyan religious song and has been arranged by Shawn Kirchner. Skye Hovelman plays the African Djimbe drum joined by percussionist Penny Sharp.

Jane Heisinger has coordinated the refreshments at intermission, which will include cookies and feature premium quality coffee topped with whipped cream. Baskets will be available in the lobby to deposit items for the local food bank and everyone is encouraged to bring a non-perishable item to donate.

“The Joyous Sounds of Christmas 2009” is presented in partnership between the Orcas Choral Society and the Orcas Theater and Community Center. Tickets are available during regular Orcas Center box office hours and are $10 for adults and $3 for students and children. Call 376-2281 for more information or visit www.orcascenter.org.