By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
SHENANGO VALLEY — Shenango Valley Chorale, with the help of its audience, has set the program for its Dec. 13 and 14 Christmas concerts.
The chorale held a contest to allow Christmas carol enthusiasts to vote for their favorite songs.
While the contest basically fizzled – “It didn’t play out exactly as we had anticipated,” said Director Edgar S. Groves. “We thought we would get a good many more votes.” – it generated what Groves called, “a very nice program.
“It’s very traditionally Christmas,” he said. “We don’t hear enough of traditional Christmas music.”
Of the 10 carols with the most votes, seven will be performed. Three were kept off the program because the chorale’s voluminous library does not include sheet music for them.
Sixty-one votes were cast. The most popular song with 15 votes was “O Holy Night.” That song was followed by a tie between “White Christmas” and “The Little Drummer Boy.” Then came “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and John Rutter’s “Christmas Lullaby.”
Chorale member Susan Piccirilli noted surprise at “O Holy Night” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” because they are not generally the first choices you would expect when people talk about their favorite carols.
“Christmas Lullaby” was helped along by a donor who bought its way onto the program with a sizable donation.
Only votes accompanied by $5 were counted, although organizers noted the contest was not about money; it was about expanding the chorale’s audience and involving audience members.
“We didn’t make money,” Piccirilli said. “It was an experiment.”
Also voted onto the program were “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Angels We Have Heard On High.”
“Silver Bells,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” and “The 12 Days of Christmas” were kept off for lack of sheet music.
Other songs received votes but Groves said the program would be too long to include them all.
While “Silent Night” didn’t make the cut in terms of most votes, it still will be sung with the Shenango Area Youth Chorus, which will sing some songs with the adult chorale and have its own concert within the concert.
The chorale will be accompanied by piano on some songs and a 22-piece chamber orchestra on others.
For more classically oriented listeners, the chorale also will sing Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols,” Rutter’s “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” and “Serenity (O Magnum Mysterium)” by Ola Gjeilo, while traditionalists should enjoy “Away in a Manger” and “Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah.”
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” rounds out the program.
The Christmas concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Westminster College Chapel in New Wilmington, and Dec. 14 in First Presbyterian Church, Sharon.
The chorale’s Christmastime offerings start at 2:30 p.m. Sunday with its annual free performance of a good chunk of Handel’s “Messiah” in First Presby. Again, an orchestra will be on hand.
The chorale’s Madrigal Singers hark back to Christmas celebrations of Medieval times with dinner concerts at 7 p.m. Dec. 6-9 at Tara, Clark.
While the singers, especially those involved in the Madrigal dinners, have a lot of music to learn for a series of challenging concerts, “We’re quite ready,” said Groves, entering his last Christmas season as director of the chorale.
“We have the rest of the year to prepare so we should be ready,” he said.
Tickets for the Dec. 13 and 14 concerts will be sold at the door. Madrigal dinners reservations: 724-974-1494.