By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
SHENANGO VALLEY —
When Shenango Valley Chorale launched an initiative to allow its audience to pick the program for its Christmas concerts, Susan Piccirilli assumed “Silent Night” and “White Christmas” would lead the way like Rudolph’s nose through thick fog.
But, in the initial stages of the contest, the voters have opted for a holy night over a silent one.
“’O Holy Night’ is the most popular song right now,” said Piccirilli, a chorale singer and former officer. “That’s not what I expected.”
Piccirilli said the choice of “O Holy Night” and “O Come O Come Emanuel” – the current second-place holder – indicates to her that people are “really thinking about” their choices.
There’s plenty of time for fans of “Silent Night” and “White Christmas” to stuff the ballot box, though, as the chorale will accept votes until Oct. 18. All told, the chorale has listed 37 carols to choose from.
The contest was initiated to expand the chorale’s audience and involve the audience members, with a side benefit of making a few bucks as each song voted on must be accompanied by $5 to count, said Director Edgar Groves.
However, the promotion of the contest didn’t come off that benevolently, chorale officials said. It appeared to be mostly an appeal for money.
The chorale is not in dire financial straits, and the money raised by the contest is a bonus, not a necessity, officials said.
Groves, who will be stepping down at the end of the season, said the idea of the contest was a lesson learned from popular music concerts, where people sing along, wave their arms and otherwise become a part of the show.
“The more involved the audience, the more meaningful it is,” he said.
The chorale’s Christmas concerts are the most important shows the group performs because of how much the season and its music mean to the people who come to hear it, Groves said.
“What we said to the community is, ‘You get to pick the program,’ ” Groves said. “Everyone has a favorite Christmas song.”
“The money is secondary (to the contest),” he said.
Ballots are available at the chorale’s Facebook page and at www.shenangovalleychorale.com The winners will be announced Nov. 1.
The winning songs will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in the Westminster College Chapel, New Wilmington, and the same time the next night in First Presbyterian Church, Sharon.
The chorale’s other Christmastime events include the annual free performance of Handel’s “Messiah” at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 24 in First Presbyterian, and the madrigal dinners and performances at 7 p.m. Dec. 6-8 at Tara in Clark. Call 724-974-1494 for madrigal reservations.