January 3, 2013

Concert celebrates true meaning of Christmas

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

From Thanksgiving through Christmas, the holiday entertainment schedule is jam packed -- which makes this weekend the perfect time for a concert that celebrates the true meaning of Christmas.

click image to enlarge

Members of the Choral Art Camerata rehearse at Woodfords Congregational Church last Sunday.

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Robert Russell directs the singers.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Woodfords Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $15 in advance; $20 at door

INFO: 828-0043; choralart.org

The Choral Art Camerata, conducted by Choral Art Society music director Robert Russell, presents its "Epiphany Celebration" concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland.

"The irony of the commercial American Christmas is that it starts at Thanksgiving, and on Dec. 26, it's done. But liturgically, the season of anticipation starts after Christmas. So we are closing the season, so to speak," Russell said.

In Western cultures, Epiphany falls on Jan. 6 and marks the revelation of the son of God as a human being in Jesus Christ.

The 17-voice Camerata specializes in music from the Renaissance through the 21st century.

Russell's program for Saturday features Bach's Cantata No. 72 in the first half, along with compositions by Claudio Monteverdi and Heinrich Schutz. After intermission, the Camerata will sing a cappella motets and carols that capture the moods of the season.

"Most of the music on the second half of the program is reflective of what I would say is my inclination to find new music with old texts; music that was composed with an ear to a Renaissance sound even though harmonies are modern," Russell said.

In addition to the program and religious theme, the Epiphany concert entices on other levels.

The 17 singers who comprise the Camerata represent the best amateur singers in the area. They are selected from what Russell describes as "a refined audition criteria."

"It's a particular type of voice that I am looking for in the Camerata, a very true voice as well as the kind of singer who has the ability to learn music independently," he said. "We put this concert on with very few rehearsals. I tell them from the outset, 'Here is the program. You need to learn on your own.' "

Coming at the end of the holiday season, the Epiphany concert generally draws less attention and a smaller audience than the Choral Art Society's "Christmas at the Cathedral" concert. It's a more intimate experience, and in some ways more rewarding as well.

Members of the group are: Sheldon Bird, Bath; Richard Sullivan, Cape Elizabeth; Sarah Johnson Bailey, Cumberland; Heidi Seitz, Falmouth; Curt Sidall, Lisbon Falls; Andrea Graichen, Kennebunk; Leon Griesbach, Molly Harmon, Abra Mueller, Nick MacDonald, Mark Nordli, Francis Wilson and Laura Whitney, Portland; Barbara Sutcliffe, Sanford; Stuart Bailey and Jeremy Schneider, Windham; and Robert Haines, Yarmouth.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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