Divine undertaking: Ars Choralis to perform Johanna Hall’s opera in Woodstock

From Giotto’s Scenes from the Life of Christ

From Giotto’s Scenes from the Life of Christ

Ars Choralis is a singing group whose ranks include people from all walks of life in the Hudson Valley. For the past 49 years, it has used music to promote the cause of peace, compassion and universal harmony – a goal that has led artistic director Barbara Pickhardt to write and choose compositions addressing the Holocaust and other world traumas. The Ars Choralis audience is international: “Messengers of Peace,” a series of concerts developed at the turn of the last millennium, was performed not just regionally, but also in Budapest and Vienna, and her “Music in Desperate Times: Remembering the Women’s Orchestra of Birkenau” was performed in New York City and Berlin as well as the Hudson Valley.

For this year’s holiday concert, Pickhardt and collaborator Johanna Hall, both based in Woodstock, have revised and expanded a musical setting of the Christmas story. In Miracle of Bethlehem, which takes the form of an opera, the story of Jesus’ birth and the galvanizing impact of that event on the various witnesses is retold emphasizing the human drama and characters. The soloists and 50-member chorus will be accompanied by piano, violin, cello, trumpet and flute.

The soloists are Amy Martin as Mary, Matt Ulrich as Joseph, Jim Ulrich as the innkeeper and Laurel Herdman as his wife, Margaret. Chuck Snyder sings the dual roles of Gabriel in the Annunciation and Herod. Mark Lindeman, Todd West and Jim Noecker are the kings; Mike Haller plays both the herald who delivers the writ to the population to return to the place of one’s birth to pay Caesar’s tax and a guest at the inn. Christina Gardner is the angel who announces the birth of Jesus to shepherds Becky Lowe, Wendy Lowe and Brian Lowe and later warns Joseph of Herod’s evil intentions, encouraging him to flee with his family into Egypt.


The concert will be performed on Saturday, December 7 at 7 p.m. and December 8 at 4 p.m. at the Overlook United Methodist Church in Woodstock. Tickets cost $20, $15 if purchased in advance; students age 18 and under pay $10 at the gate, $7.50 in advance. Tickets are for sale at DIG in Saugerties, Mother Earth’s Storehouse and Barcone’s Music in Kingston and the Golden Notebook and Catskill Art & Office Supply in Woodstock.

Ars Choralis’ Miracle in Bethlehem, Saturday, December 7, 7 p.m., Sunday, December 8, 4 p.m., $20/$15/$10/$7.50, Overlook United Methodist Church, 233 Tinker Street, Woodstock; www.arschoralis.org.