Community chorus sings spring concert

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual spring concert on the Robison Concert Hall stage at the Mahaney Arts Center in Middlebury, at 3 p.m., on Sunday, May 5. A varied selection of historic and contemporary music fills the free hour-long presentation by nearly 90 community and student members of the chorus — among the largest choirs in the state. Nearly all the works on the program receive their first-ever performance in Vermont.
The choir welcomes guest violinist Romy Munkres, a Middlebury Union High School junior and the Young Tradition Vermont 2018 contest winner. She will play solo fiddle as the chorus accompanies her in a traditional Norwegian song, “Gropen,” a lively dance tune. From Celtic traditions, the ensemble offers “Aisling” (meaning ‘dream’ or ‘vision’) scored for solo violin and gently accompanied by the choir and piano.
Newly composed pieces include two songs with texts by Sara Teasdale, scored by longtime Vermont resident Gwyneth Walker and by Missouri-based composer Susan LaBarr. The chorus will also sing a work recently published by Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo entitled “The Rose,” which sets a picturesque text by Christina Rossetti.
The choir will offer “Hands are Knockin’” by Kyle Pederson, a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate, written with a mix of Arabic and English texts for an international school in Muscat, the capital of Oman; this exuberant work calls us to open our doors to all people. As we anticipate the coming of summer, the chorus will sing “Sunshine” by Michael McGlynn, composer and arranger for the Irish ensemble Anúna. McGlynn scores this joyful song with a mix of captivating rhythmic patterns and a driving piano accompaniment.
“Kanaval,” by Haitian-American composer Sydney Guillaume, incorporates surprising vocalizations and compelling percussion parts to illustrate a whirlwind of activity. The composer dynamically recreates a festive atmosphere as people young and old party together for three days at the annual Mardi Gras celebration in his homeland.
The program includes uplifting choruses from an intriguing 18th-century work by George Frederic Handel entitled “The Triumph of Time and Truth.” Revised in England during the final years of his life, Handel originally scored the piece early in his career as an Italian oratorio; it ends with a vibrant “Hallelujah” chorus. The choir will also sing one of his most beautiful songs, “Music Spread Thy Voice Around.”
“We hope the music and lyrics at our spring concert — spanning the globe and from across the centuries — will lift spirits and as spring and summer return,” said conductor Jeff Rehbach. “As Gwyneth Walker suggests in ‘Refuge,’ within our singing we can hear the words of healing, the melding of the parts to whole, the very language of the soul.”
Community Chorus singers hail from Bristol, Lincoln, New Haven, North Ferrisburgh, Monkton, Williston, Weybridge, Cornwall, Middlebury, East Middlebury, Goshen, Shoreham, Salisbury, Leicester, Brandon, Orwell, Port Henry, Moriah, and college students from Brattleboro, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Massachusetts, Beijing China, and Nyanga Zimbabwe. Rehbach conducts the performances, with Tim Guiles at the piano and special guest artist Damascus Kafumbe, director of the College’s African Music and Dance Ensemble, on percussion.

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