This time around, the chorus decided that it was time to present a program of all new material. The result is a roster of eighteen choral works none of which has ever been sung by QVS before. Half the pieces are drawn from QVS members’ suggestions of their favorite music, and half are from Music Director Nym Cooke’s favorites.
The result is probably the most diverse concert the chorus has ever given: a program that includes Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s beautiful “Ave Maria” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”; Johannes Brahms’s “How lovely is thy dwelling-place” from the German Requiem and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Find the cost of freedom”; a Shaker hymn and a medley of Beach Boys tunes. Other composers represented include Leonard Cohen, Felix Mendelssohn, Billy Joel, Leonard Bernstein, Brian Wilson, and J. S. Bach. There will be something for everyone—all sung with the special expressive verve that the chorus is known for.
This year’s choral offerings for the holiday season are unusually varied and rich. References to angels and stars abound—giving rise to the program’s title, which was drawn from one of the pieces, “Out of the orient crystal skies.” This is a program of mysterious, magical works—pieces where light blazes out of darkness, and where out of deep silence heavenly choirs sing—pieces that will transport you far away from the here and now of Christmas shopping and department-store Muzak. As Music Director Nym Cooke puts it, “Our music this time around favors the ancient and the timeless—the opposite of pop, the antithesis of commercial.”
Composers range from Johannes Eccard (b. 1553) to Daniel Kantor (b. 1960). The offerings include arrangements of English folksongs; the second performance anywhere of a piece by Music Director Cooke; "In the bleak mid-winter" in two musical settings; an aria from Handel's Messiah sung (as it originally was) not by a female alto but by a male countertenor; "Gaudete! Christus est natus" from the 16th century; “A Christmas Carol” by American composer Charles Ives; and “Dark the Night,” with music from Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and a text by Cooke.
All but two of the pieces have never been sung previously by the Quinebaug Valley Singers. Half of them were suggested by members of the chorus, and half were selected by Music Director Cooke. QVS’s own Sarah Jo Burke will enliven a couple of songs with her fine flute and drum playing. The concert will start with the chorus’s youngest member, 15-year- old Audrey Clark, singing the opening verse of “Once in royal David’s city.” And of course it’ll end with everyone singing familiar Christmas carols together—a QVS tradition.