The Quinebaug Valley Singers, one of this area's largest and liveliest community choruses, is preparing a knockout program for their spring concerts. It's titled "How Can I Keep from Singing," after the great Quaker hymn, which the group will sing in a thrilling arrangement accompanied by virtuoso keyboardist Brooks Milgate. The concerts will happen at the St. Joachim Chapel, St. Anne / St. Patrick Parish, corner of routes 20 and 148 in Fiskdale, Mass. (Saturday, May 19th at 7:30 p.m.) and at the Evangelical Covenant Church just off the common in Woodstock, Conn. (Sunday, May 20th at 3:00 p.m.). Both concerts are free, with a freewill offering collected before intermission. And both venues are fully handicap-accessible.

Many of the pieces on this Spring's roster have a hymn-like or anthemic quality, and all of them celebrate life, rebirth, spring, or nature in some way. The stylistic range is vast: from the delightful and carefully crafted 17th-century English round "Hey ho, to the greenwood" to the inspired cinematic pop of Elton John's "Circle of Life"; from Toby Tate's delicate setting of an Emily Dickinson poem, "To make a prairie," to the Gaelic hymn "Morning has broken"; from Pete Seeger's wonderful setting of the Book of Ecclesiastes' "To everything there is a season" ("Turn! Turn! Turn!") to the African American declaration "I feel like goin' on" (with its rapid-fire alto part, in Ysaye Barnwell's arrangement); from the lilt and innocence of "Spring Has Come" (1582) to the gritty yet affirmative "Seasons of Love" from Jonathan Larson's musical Rent (1995). And there is much more diversity than even these examples suggest.

This is one of those concert programs where chorus members--and likely many in the audience as well--may be hard pressed to identify a single favorite song. Is it Marty Haugen's joyfully solemn processional hymn, "Sing Out, Earth and Skies," with flute, organ-stop bells, finger cymbals, and tambourine accompanying the chorus? Is it John Clements's evocative and romantic little "Flower of Beauty," directed sensitively and with a sure hand by chorus member Johanna Chernisky? Is it the tune of the wonderful Finnish national anthem "Finlandia," setting stirring words (by Lloyd Stone) that begin "This is my song, O God of all the nations"? Or is it John Rutter's captivatingly beautiful music in "For the beauty of the earth" (whose performance is dedicated to the memory of former QVS member Janet Farrell)? Come and be entertained by some top-notch choral singing, and make up your own mind as to your favorites!