November 29, 2012

Sounds familial: Christmas at the Cathedral

This year's concerts boast a number of parent-child singing duos.

By Bob Keyes
Staff Writer

click image to enlarge

Singers who have more in common than the Choral Art Society: Karl Nordli and Mark Nordli of Portland; Madeline Kapp and Barbara Kapp of Portland; and Elli Lisa of North Yarmouth and Peter Gray of Old Orchard Beach.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer


WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, 307 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $20 to $30, with a limited number of $5 youth tickets for ages 21 and younger.

INFO: 828-0043;


A preview concert will be performed at noon Saturday; admission is $10.

At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, the Choral Art Society will host its "Messiah Sing-Along" at St. Patrick's Church, 1342 Congress St., Portland. Cost is $5, and participants are urged to bring non-perishable food donations.

As best as Bob Goettel can remember, the Choral Art Society has never had a parent-child grouping of singers.

"But this year, we have three," said Goettel, the group's marketing director.

When the chorus presents its annual Christmas at the Cathedral concerts on Saturday and Sunday, three parents and their adult children will sing together: Sopranos Barbara and Madeline Kapp of Portland; tenors Mark and Karl Nordli of Portland; and tenor Peter Gray of Old Orchard Beach and his daughter, soprano Elli Lisa of North Yarmouth.

In some instances, the parents have performed with their kids many times over the years, at family events or recitals. But this is different. The Choral Art Society is the premier choral group in southern Maine, and it's a mark of prestige to be accepted into its ranks.

For the parents, it's a source of pride to sing alongside a son or daughter. It affirms the musical training the children received, and justifies the many hours schlepping the kids to and from rehearsals and concerts.

For the offspring, satisfaction takes another form.

"We're singing together as peers," said Madeline Kapp, who remembers many performances with her mother accompanying her on piano when she was a young girl. "It's different than when she would accompany me. It's nice, and I think we both enjoy it."

"We're a very musical family," said Barbara, who recently moved to Maine from Connecticut. "This is an extension of what we have always done."

Mark Nordli conducted his son in the Deering High School choir when the elder Nordli directed it. Now they sing as equals. "It's really very meaningful," Mark said.

The two fish for lobster together by day, and sing together at night. It's great spending time with dad, Karl said.

"We had father-son disagreements in school, but now we're more of a team," said Karl, also who works at the restaurant Fore Street. "He's really taken me under his wing."

Peter Gray swells with pride when he hears his daughter's soprano voice. "Elli has a wonderful voice," he said. "The chance to do this together is tremendous and exciting."

Lisa feels much the same. She has been associated with the Choral Art Society since she moved back to Maine from Los Angeles in 2005. But this is her father's first year with the group.

"It is great singing with my dad," she said. "I think what I like best is how much he is learning and growing as a musician and a singer. He is putting in a lot of hard work, and I admire him for being up for the challenge."

This year marks the 25th annual Christmas at the Cathedral celebration. Concerts are at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. There will also be a preview at noon Saturday featuring a reduced ticket price.

The concert will feature soprano Suzanne Nance, who performs throughout the United States and Europe and is also well known in Maine as the host of MPBN's "Morning Classical" radio program. Also featured will be the Portland Brass Quintet.

To mark the 25th anniversary, the Choral Art Society commissioned a new work for chorus and brass quintet by Boston composer Kevin Siegfried. The piece, "Vidimus Stellam," was composed with a cathedral sound in mind, said Robert Russell, who directs the chorus.

"I programmed several of Kevin Siegfried's pieces for past Choral Art Society Epiphany concerts, because I was drawn to his choice of beautifully expressive texts and evocative harmonic settings of the texts," Russell said. "He visited our 'Christmas at the Cathedral' performances last year, and his 'Vidimus Stellam' was composed with an ear tuned to the cathedral acoustical setting."

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

Twitter: pphbkeyes

Note: This article was updated at 9:22 a.m. November 29, 2012 to correct spelling of the names Madeline and Barbara Kapp.

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