A Chicago Chorale Christmas!
By Bruce Tammen
Chorale has never presented an actual Christmas concert. We have sung Messiah three times, and the Bach Christmas Oratorio twice; but never a bona fide, celebratory holiday concert, with pieces from a variety of periods and composers, specific to the season. Rather, beginning with our very first year, 2001, we have participated in Advent liturgies, usually at Monastery of the Holy Cross, and put our greater efforts into concerts presented the weekend before Thanksgiving.
This season, however, we are breaking with that in-house tradition. The Ravinia Festival, which, surprisingly, has an indoor, winter season, has invited us to sing actual Christmas concerts on their BGH Classics Series, in Bennett Gordon Hall, Saturday, December 15, at 5:00 PM and 7:30 PM. Our singers are overjoyed to finally have this opportunity to show what we can do, in a program combining music by the “high art” composers who are our bread and butter (think Brahms, Poulenc, Bruckner, Rachmaninoff) with favorite contemporary pieces by Biebl, Chilcott, Busto, and Holst, and settings of perennially popular carols like Lo, How a Rose, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. We even plan to ask the audience to join us in a carol sing along!
I grew up with such annual holiday concerts, and conducted them each year I spent with the Virginia Glee Club, in Charlottesville, where they were wildly popular with the community, as well as with the university. Here in Chicago, I have planned and conducted holiday concerts each December for several years now, with CMAC, the University of Chicago Glee Club. And each season, audience members comment on how much they enjoy the free-wheeling programming, the enthusiasm of the singers, and the good spirits it all supports during the darkening time of the year. The men of CMAC even decorate the church where we perform, putting up lights, wreaths, and a tree, present skits, and serve cookies and cocoa to the audience after the show. And then they follow it all with a famously raucous party to usher in finals week. Some of this, I fear, would not fly with the Ravinia Festival… but we’ll do our best to send our audiences home in good spirits, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, humming carols. We hope to see you there! Tickets, available through Ravinia, are selling fast; don’t wait until the last moment to purchase yours.