Chorale preview

The Shenango Valley Chorale, under the direction of Stephen Barr, will perform this weekend at Westminster College in New Wilmington and First Presbyterian Church in Sharon. The program will include traditional favorites as well as some new music.

Don’t be distracted by the little people at this weekend’s performances of the Shenango Valley Chorale — or by some of the unfamiliar pieces of music on the program.

Those youthful voices will belong to the members of the Shenango Area Youth Chorus, which will once again be performing with the chorale for its annual holiday concert.

And those “new” compositions are part of the chorale’s gift to the community this year.

There will be two shows — one Friday at Wallace Chapel at Westminster College in New Wilmington and one Saturday at First Presbyterian in Sharon. Both start at 7:30 p.m.

On the program will be a mix of new and old, traditional and international, all with the same theme — celebrating Christmas.

At the podium will be Shenango Valley Chorale director Stephen Barr. Accompanying will be Paula Kubick.

Heralding the start of the evening’s music will be the Youngstown Fine Arts Brass.

Harpist Bill van Patten will perform the processional from “A Ceremony of Carols,” followed by the chorale and the brass in “Hodie Christus Natus Est” by Giovanni Gabrieli.

There will be a special addition to the latter — a double choir, one in the balcony and one on the sanctuary floor, which will fill the room with sound from all directions. The 16th century composer’s arrangement is a first for the chorale, Barr said, and a challenge.

“It is almost like twice the learning,” he said. “There are two separate sets of parts. It is like a call and a response. One choir will sing, and the other will answer.”

Barr said the piece is part of his and the chorale’s commitment to bringing something new to each performance.

“My joke is, ‘I swing for the fences,’” he said.

But it is not just about challenging the chorale.

It is about sharing new music with the audience, Barr said.

“I like to program a mix of favorites and for the audience to experience something they haven’t before,” Barr said. 

Patten will be featured again as the chorale sings “Wolcum Yole,” also from “A Ceremony of Carols,” while the brass and percussionists Stephen Ley, Christian Daviduk and Tom Fleet will join with the chorale for “Gloria Fanfare.”

After “Salvation is Created” and “Betelehemu,” a Nigerian Christmas song, the chorale will perform “O Magnum Mysterium,” featuring flutist Cassandra Eisenreich.

Barr said it is among his favorite pieces of music in this year’s concert. It was written, he said, by a Pittsburgh-based composer, Nancy Galbraith.

“It is introspective and meditative, and really beautiful,” he said. “It really speaks to one of the central mysteries of the Christian faith — the virgin birth.”

The familiar holiday tune, “Sleigh Ride,” is next, followed by a special performance by the Madrigal Singers — “Deck the Halls,” “Bogoroditse Devo” by Sergei Rachmaninoff and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

The youth chorus takes the stage after intermission under the direction of Julie Freeman Kerr and with their accompanist, Maureen Murray-Jaklic.

The children will perform “Jazz Gloria,” “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Celebrating Hanukkah,” before being joined once again by the chorale and musicians for a Christmas carol medley.

Barr said the audience will enjoy not only the fresh voices of the youth choir, but also the rich tones and polished performance of the chorale.

“They always rise to the occasion,” he said.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to correct errors.