Three French Christmas choral concerts by the Down East Singers will be performed in early December.

The program, “Noel Francais,” is a choral tribute to Maine’s French heritage and Christmas traditions. Anthony Antolini, who also directs the Bowdoin College Chorus, conducts the group.

Performances are scheduled in Newcastle at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church at 7:30 PM on Dec. 8. On Friday Dec. 9, they will perform at 7:30 PM at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston, and at 2:30 PM Dec. 11, at the Camden Opera House, in Camden .

Cecile Terrien Lampton, of Jefferson, president of the Down East Singers, said that this concert revives memories of her French-speaking childhood.

Lampton, 67, is fluent in French and proud of her father’s Huguenot heritage.

Several other singers in the chorus are avid Francophiles and have studied French.

“I’m thrilled Dr. Antolini selected a French Christmas program for us to perform,” Lampton said.

Lampton’s parents spoke French at home when she was growing up in New York City. Her father, Samuel Lucien Terrien, was a French citizen born in Saumur in the beautiful Loire Valley. Her mother was from Indiana and spoke French.

In the middle 1930’s Terrien immigrated to New York where he taught at Union Theological Seminary and was an adjunct professor at Columbia University .

“My parents spoke French exclusively at home. My father taught me about French history, especially our family’s Huguenot heritage in France,” she said. 

Lampton learned about Maine’s Franco-American heritage when, as a young girl in the 1950’s, she traveled to the state with her father to visit a colleague.

“My father loved Maine. He thought Maine looked like the French countryside,” she recalled.

During her many visits, she learned how many of Maine’s Franco-Americans spoke French as their first language, in spite of often being discouraged or forbidden to do so.

In recent years, speaking French has experienced resurgence, especially in northern Maine, she said.

“As the daughter of a Frenchman who loved music, I’m happy Down East Singers are singing many of the French carols I remember from my childhood, and delighted that my fellow choristers are excited and charmed by the program.”

“Noel Francais” will include a performance of the Gloria by the French composer Francis Poulenc, featuring soprano soloist Christina Astrachan.

Both French and French-Canadian short pieces and carols will be performed, with some audience participation.

“Noel Francais” will be the first time Down East Singers have performed in Lewiston, where excellent acoustics in the Franco-American Heritage Center will augment the French music and songs.

“Mainers of French heritage are enjoying a renaissance of pride in their culture and traditions. Our chorus believes we will all enjoy a French Noël concert program, especially when performed in the Franco-American Heritage Center.”

The instrumental folk trio and dance band from Maine, ‘Ti’ Acadie (meaning “Little Acadia), will join the concert program at the Franco-American Heritage Center and the Camden Opera House, but will not perform at St. Patrick’s Church.

New singers are welcome to join Down East Singers. Rehearsals are held on Tuesday nights in Rockport, and their next season will begin on January 10th, with spring performances of Handel’s “Te Deum”.

For more information and ticket information for the December concerts, visit the website at www.downeastsingers.org, or email [email protected]