The Maine Girls Chorus has provided the soundtrack for “The Magic of Christmas in Alsace,” a nationally broadcast special that airs on Maine Public Television later this month. From left to right in the front row are accompanist Deana Gurney, Ella Stanley, Emily Segal, Emily Cheung, Hope Poore and Aberdeen Brickett. Back from left are Co-Director Kitty Beller-McKenna, Ellie Lomangino, Grace Blankenship, Cat Sullivan, Pema Williams, Isabella Puleo and Co-Director Ann Dillon. Not pictured are chorus members Chloe DePalma, Rachel Foster, Moira O’Connor and Sophie Patenaude. Contributed

PORTLAND — Knowing that her voice, and those of her fellow Maine Girls Chorus members, will be heard across the country on TV later this month has made this a particularly exciting holiday season for Cat Sullivan.

“It’s absolutely crazy; it’s something that I really haven’t been able to grasp,” the Waynflete sophomore said Dec. 6.

Only in its second year, the ensemble of 14 high school-aged young women have provided the soundtrack for “The Magic of Christmas in Alsace,” a nationally broadcast TV special that airs on Maine Public Television at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20, and at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22. The Create public broadcasting channels in Maine will also run the program at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.

The show is written, filmed, directed and produced by Barbara Cray of Westport Island, who has developed two other Europe-based holiday specials to air on public broadcasting stations: “European Christmas Markets” and “Christmas on the Danube.”

“I’ve told my family members that I’m going to be on the back track, but it’s crazy to know that so many people are going to be able to hear it,” said Sullivan, a Portland resident. “It’s just so surreal.”

The Portland teenager has found her focus on singing strengthened after joining Maine Girls Chorus this January. She joined her school’s chorus this year, too.

Ann Dillon of North Yarmouth and Kitty Beller-McKenna, director of Portland-based Women in Harmony, formed the chorus in March 2018. Dillon, who stepped down in 2011 after 13 years as executive director of the Wescustago Youth Chorale, was eager to get back to conducting, and the Maine Girls Chorus held its first performance last January.

The group holds its winter concert at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at St. Ansgar Lutheran Church, 515 Woodford St. in Portland.

Cray, a member of Women in Harmony, has used music from the Kingston Trio and Mozart and Haydn in her prior two specials. Having attended the Maine Girls Chorus’s May concert – its second ever, followed by October’s Women of the Harbor Festival in Brunswick – she found the voices for her third TV program.

“She wanted a young, childlike sound,” Dillon said Dec. 5. When Cray asked if the chorus could record music for “The Magic of Christmas in Alsace,” Dillon said she joked, “Oh, I guess we can.”

With an Aug. 30 deadline looming, assembling the girls – who hail from Kennebunk to Hallowell and are involved in a variety of other activities – was the first challenge. Then they crammed three days of rehearsals and a recording session into one week. On top of enduring the summertime humidity inside the studio, the girls had to learn four traditional carols in French during three rehearsals.

“It was wild, but they had a blast,” Dillon said. “We really had built a community of girls that cared about each other, so they loved just having that time together.”

She’s as excited as Sullivan about the exposure “The Magic of Christmas in Alsace” should bring.

“It’s thrilling,” said Dillon, who is pleased to wield the conductor’s baton once again. “To have (the chorus) be so successful is really affirming.”

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