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Westchester Choral Society to explore seasonal traditions and innovations
by Judith Wartels for Vocal Area Network
Posted November 24, 2009

Frank NemhauserConcert goers who attend the Westchester Choral Society's concert on Sunday, December 6 at 3:00 PM will have a rich musical treat in store. Under the baton of Maestro Frank Nemhauser, now in his fourth year as Music Director of the Westchester Choral Society, the award-winning chorus will perform an imaginatively constructed program that will showcase its impressive artistic skills. The works chosen illustrate the rich fabric of seasonal musical traditions as illuminated and reinterpreted through selections representing a broad heritage of folk music, pastoral songs and works by renowned composers, encompassing a remarkable range of musical styles.

Mr. Nemhauser designed the program around J.S. Bach's archetypal Cantata No. 61, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, a work whose very compositional structure expresses the anticipation and longing at the heart of the Advent text. Its performance will be the first occasion of Mr. Nemhauser's conducting the music of Bach with the Westchester Choral Society. In preparing for this concert, Mr. Nemhauser has explored with the chorus the art of singing this great work in the particular style of the period while giving full effect to its unique harmonic, polyphonic and dramatic character, so as to create a jubilant and fully realized performance that will "ring with joy and wonderment."   

The concert will open with "See, the Conquering Hero Comes" and "Hallelujah, Amen" from G.F. Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, which relates the origins of the biblical Hanukkah story. This great choral drama, one of Handel's militaristic late oratorios, is an exemplar of Handel's genius in composing musical themes that convey both power and radiant joy. As was often the practice in the Baroque era, Handel made liberal reuse of materials from his own works and those of other composers. The program's next work is illustrative of Bach as the dazzling master of such inventive adaptations. The opening movement of his Cantata No. 61, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, was based in part upon the Lutheran Advent hymn of the same title, drawn from Saint Ambrose's Veni, redemptor gentium and adapted plainchant melody.

Other composers featured in the program are celebrated for their own innovative compositions of festive seasonal music. Ralph Vaughan Williams's Fantasia on Christmas Carols draws upon traditional English carols from Hereford, Somerset and Sussex, which the composer endows with his inspired realization of the character of the English pastoral and folk song repertory. The program will conclude with a joy-filled and humorous tour de force of musical recycling, American composer Craig Courtney's irresistible A Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Based on the traditional "Twelve Days of Christmas," this musical romp through the centuries re-interprets this well-known piece in a dozen styles, from 6th century Rome through 19th century America, with echoes of Handel, Wagner and Tchaikovsky, among others, rendered with wit and precision. All are invited for a wonderful, uplifting time welcoming in the holiday season!

Mr. Nemhauser is also Music Director of the Berkshire Choral Festival and Director of Vocal Studies of the Mannes College of Music, where he formerly served as Associate Dean. He will conduct the 50-member chorus and soloists, accompanied on piano and organ by David Baranowski.

The concert will take place at Rye Presbyterian Church, 282 Boston Post Road, Rye, New York. Tickets are $20 for general admission; students with ID, $10. For tickets and information, please contact Katie Goulart, Administrator, at 914-761-3900, ext. 103, or visit www.westchesterchoralsociety.org. The Westchester Choral Society is chorus-in-residence at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, New York, where it conducts its weekly rehearsals, summer sings and annual Messiah Sing.

Judith Wartels sings with the Westchester Choral Society.

Content Contact: Judith Wartels.
Revision Date: November 24, 2009.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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