Organist James Kennerley is enthusiastic about the upcoming “Christmas with Kennerley” concert. “Music provides much needed light and beauty for the world, and this Christmas we can share the light of music with each other again,” he says. Contributed / Tim Greenway

Kotzschmar organist James Kennerley says he’s most excited about playing selections from Handel’s “The Messiah” at next week’s Christmas with Kennerley annual concert.

The Dec. 19 audience at Merrill Auditorium in Portland will be invited to sing along with one of those selections, “Hallelujah Chorus.”

“Even if people think they can’t sing, we’re going to have them try, and I think that will be really fun. That’s the thing I’m most looking forward to,” Kennerley said. 

The Windham Chamber Singers of Windham High School will perform at next week’s “Christmas with Kennerley.” Contributed / Friends of Kotzschmar

He plans to play 13 pieces in all to showcase the Windham Chamber Singers, Renaissance Voices of Portland, the Kotzschmar Festival Brass and Percussion ensemble, mezzo soprano opera singer Briana Hunter and, of course, the famous Kotzschmar organ itself.

The Windham Chamber Singers of Windham High School will perform two pieces and join the final group performance.

“From the student perspective it’s pretty amazing to get to work with professional musicians who lead by example,” said Madelyne Hancock, a senior. “To perform at an auditorium like Merrill – it’s very eye-opening to the opportunities that the arts present.”


About half of the members of the Windham Chamber Singers are new to the group this year, while the others who performed at Christmas with Kennerley last year are looking forward to returning, Hancock said.

Richard Nickerson, director of the Windham Chamber Singers, said, “we love any opportunity we have to collaborate with other musicians.”  

“There’s no better time of the year to go enjoy music than Christmas,” Nickerson said. 

Kennerley wholeheartedly agrees.

“Seeing and hearing this stuff with other people is what’s the most thrilling,” Kennerley said. “The community just draws it all together and gives you that wonderful feeling … These are the best people to perform, so it’s such a treat.”

Friends of Kotzschmar Organ will hold a sock and glove drive at the concert as a nod to Kennerley’s tradition of wearing fun, colorful socks while he plays the organ. The items will be donated to the Preble Street shelter.

The Dec. 19 concert will begin at 7 p.m. and tickets can be purchased in advance, starting at $56, at Tickets are also available for digital screenings of the concert from Dec. 22 through Jan. 21.

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