December 12-13, 2015

This past weekend, December 12th and 13th, Valley Choral Society presented our winter concerts at St. Mark Church in Pennsburg on Saturday evening and at Trinity Lutheran Church in Perkasie on Sunday afternoon. We are pleased to report that both performances were well attended by many family members, friends, and patrons. Although we sing simply for sheer enjoyment, it was gratifying to share the fruits of our 15 weeks of rehearsals with a full house of friendly faces who appreciated our musical contributions.

Most of the selections were led by our talented artistic director and conductor, Patricia Conrad. She so loves to sing and was happy to join us in a piece under the lead of our assistant conductor, Andrew Long, who is also our very proficient accompanist on piano and organ. He is also a member of the Ensemble, a smaller select group within the chorus. Sarah Brown, our other accompanist for the past seven years, unexpectedly left last month to relocate to Florida for a new employment position. Pat filled in to ably accompany the chorus on piano on a piece that Drew conducted. We are fortunate to have two such multi-talented leaders guiding our musical efforts.

Our concert offerings reflected the theme, An American Christmas, and showcased six works by American composer, Z. Randall Stroope. These included his arrangement of “All My Heart This Night Rejoices,” our opening number sung from the balcony by the Ensemble. They then joined the rest of the choir below in processing up the church aisle singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful, ” while audience members added their voices using the hymnals in the pews to follow along. From our places in the sanctuary, we shared two longer works by Stroope. The first, “American Christmas,” weaves American tunes such as the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” and the Appalachian carol “I Wonder As I Wander” into the piece and highlighted Doug Slemmer and Gayle Willouer as soloists. Several singers then retreated to the balcony to present an capella responsorial chant “O Magnum Mysterium,” along with the larger group in front, effecting an ethereal sound.

Following intermission, the second portion of our program began with three Ensemble pieces. “Verbum caro factum est,” a moving Stroope arrangement in Latin and English text, Irving Berlin’s well known “White Christmas” and another Stroope composition, “Joy Shall Be Yours in the Morning.” Audience members then joined in the hymn “Angels from the Realms of Glory” while the rest of the chorus filed in for the final section of the concert. This included the last Stroope offering “The Best of Rooms” as well as holiday favorites “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with soloist, Mary Lee Slemmer, “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” “Let it Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! and our encore number “Sleigh Ride.” Although the weather was unusually warm this weekend, we don’t really want to encourage winter, as one of our concerts last December had to be cancelled due to a snowstorm.

We are grateful to our numerous advertisers and patrons who support our mission to produce outstanding choral music. We aim to entertain and inspire you, our audience, and hope you will return again and again to enjoy our performances. Another incentive to attend is that we always invite audiences to join in our post-concert receptions to enjoy tasty refreshments displayed with an artistic flair. Keep in mind our upcoming free pops concerts on Sundays March 6 and 13, 2016 when we will present Sentimental Journey, music of the 1940’s. Our spring concerts on May 14 and 15, 2016, Good News, will feature spirituals and gospel music. We hope to see you then!

— Camilla Lange

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