Merriment en masse: Great Christmas concerts

HVPMessiahfemalechorus-@Deck the halls with boughs of Christmas choral music! That’s the situation every December, and it’s about to start again. Often it’s just one performance of Handel’s Messiah after another. This year, though, it’s one high-profile Messiah and a wide variety of other music.

The big “Messiah” occurs on Saturday, December 20 at 2 p.m. at the Ulster Performing Arts Center at 601 Broadway in Kingston. Christine Howlett, music director of the Poughkeepsie-based Cappella Festiva, will be leading an expanded version of that chorus and members of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic – more than 150 performers in total – in a nearly complete “singalong” version of Messiah. Audience members will have the opportunity to sing along with the choral sections, and music will be provided.

Howlett will be giving a pre-concert talk at 1 p.m. She is the director of choral activities at Vassar College, and she is going to be having a very busy December! Tickets for this performance cost $25 to $50 and can be bought in advance by calling (845) 339-6088 or at www.bardavon.org.

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Howlett and the Cappella Festiva Treble Choir will also be performing Christmas music, including Handel and works of several contemporary composers, on Sunday, December 14 at 5 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church at 20 Carroll Street in Poughkeepsie. Admission to that concert is free, and no tickets or advance reservations are required. There’s more information at www.cappellafestiva.org.

Also on December 20, at 7:30 p.m., Maria Todaro will be leading her Phoenicia Community Choir in a selection of Christmas music (possibly including the “Hallelujah” Chorus from Messiah) at the Phoenicia Wesleyan Church at 24 Main Street in Phoenicia. Todaro has titled the concert “Gaudete” (“Rejoice”) after the ancient carol of that name. She describes the content as a collection of familiar and lesser-known Christmas carols.

The concert follows caroling in the town of Phoenicia, part of a communitywide celebration that includes free food and cider around a bonfire. She also says that this event is meant to maintain singing traditions and to be a healing experience for the community. The choir has no website of its own, but you can get some information at www.phoeniciavoicefest.org.

And further, on December 20 at 7 p.m., the ensemble Woodstock Renaissance will appear at the Woodstock Library at 5 Library Lane in Woodstock as part of the “Live at the Library” series. The group will be singing “Renaissance motets and madrigals, a wassail from Wales, works by Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) and Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), a Christmas song by Woodstock composer Alexander Semmler (1900-1977) and more.” There is no admission charge, although as always, contributions to the Library are welcome.

On Sunday, December 14 at 3 p.m., Kairos: A Consort of Singers, under the direction of Edward Lundergan, will present its annual Service of Lessons & Carols at the Holy Cross Monastery on Route 9W in West Park. The service will intersperse readings from the Old and New Testaments with seasonal motets, hymns and carols, including works by Samuel Barber, Charles Ives, Healy Willan, Francis Poulenc and others.

A holiday reception will follow the service, and all are cordially invited to attend. Kairos warns that these events are always well-attended, and urges audience members to arrive at least 20 minutes early. There is no admission charge, but donations are welcome; they will be matched by the Holy Cross Community and given to a local food bank.

Kairos is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and has recently released its CD The Valley Sings: Choral Music by Composers of the Hudson Valley. For information on this event and on the ensemble’s spring 2015 events, call (845) 256-9114 or visit www.kairosconsort.org.

Ars Choralis’ annual “Welcome Winter, Welcome Yule” is always so popular that it has to be performed twice. This year’s events will take place on Saturday, December 13 at 7 p.m. at the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 104 Wurts Street in Kingston, and on Sunday, December 14 at 4 p.m. at the Overlook United Methodist Church at 233 Tinker Street in Woodstock. Tickets cost $15 in advance, $17 in advance online, $20 at the door and are half-price for those 18 years old and under. As usual, the musical content will be highly varied, from Purcell to P. D. Q. Bach and including several contemporary popular Christmas songs. Information on locales for advance ticket sales, a link to online ticket purchases and further information on the concert can be found at www.arschoralis.org.

Ars Choralis is also offering a New Year’s Eve concert, “Messengers of Peace,” at the Old Dutch Church at 272 Wall Street in Kingston at 7 p.m. There is no admission charge for this concert; any donations will be given to the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen in Kingston. And watch for Ars Choralis’ magnificent “Music in Desperate Times,” scheduled to return next April.

“The Old Dutch Church will present the Mendelssohn Club Christmas Concerts on Friday and Saturday, December 12 and 13 at 8 p.m.each night. Club members will be joined onstage by the Kingston High School Choir and Kingston High School Brass Ensemble. The 111-year-old Mendelssohn Club of Kingston was founded in 1903 “to promote interest in choral group singing; to promote friendship, sociability and culture among friends of music; and to lawfully do any and all things necessary, suitable and proper for the accomplishment of these purposes.” The Club is named for the great German composer whose songs and choral works were popular when the first glee clubs, many of them all-male, were founded in his name in the early years following the Civil War in New York and Philadelphia. The Old Dutch Church is located in the Historic Stockade District at 272 Wall Street in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 338-6759 or e-mail info@olddutchchurch.org.”

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