December 13th, 2011

Wisconsin Cream City Chorus: "A Year In The Life"

Saturday evening the 10th, we went to the Unitarian Universalist Church West for the Cream City Chorus' "holiday concert"--which was mostly not the holidays you are thinking of.

The concert title, "A Year In The Life," gives you a hint that you will get a cycle through the holidays of the year, but even this leaves some surprises.

Act I started off with "Celebrate the Seasons," for New Year's Day, and then went on with a very pretty spiritual-like song entitled "Up the Mountain," for Martin Luther King Day. The chorus then covered Valentine's Day ("I'm Kissing You,"), Mother's Day ("Music in my Mother's House"), Memorial Day ("Find the Cost of Freedom,", July 4th ("We, the People,"), Bastille Day ("One Day More"), August 9th (U.N. Day of the World's Indigenous People)("Miracle"), and September 11th ("Choose to Bless the World").

Most of these songs were new to us and we enjoyed hearing them. The chorus was in good form, with particularly notable performances being the solos by Jay Reinke on "Up the Mountain," and Hillary Giffen on "I'm Kissing You," and the trio of Emory Churness, Peter Konrath, and Kristen Weber on "Find the Cost of Freedom."

After a short intermission, the "year" rolled on, with the Michael Jackson piece "Thriller" for Halloween; "All Good Gifts/When You Believe," for Thanksgiving; "Will I?" for World AIDS Day (Dec. 1); "Slow Dancing in the Snow," first snowfall; "Bidi Bom", Hanukkah; and "African Noel" and "O,Holy Night" for Christmas.

This half had more emphasis on numbers featuring the whole chorus, who made a joyful noise where appropriate. ("Will I?," solo by Chuck Ellingson, is an appropriately somber piece--.) The results were pleasing to hear and to watch.

I was rather interested by the choice of subjects. Of course, once you get away from the "standard" holidays there are an infinity of choices, and you can't do them all. I was interested that there was a Mother's Day song, but not a Father's Day song; nothing Pagan for Beltane, Samhain, or Solstice; and that one of the Christmas selections, "O Holy Night," is of course explicitly Christian, something that's been shied away from in the past. I don't at all suggest that the last two choices mean that the Chorus is getting more "vanilla" in its thematic selections--if anything it probably means that the group is actually becoming less doctrinaire over time and not making choices that would have seemed de rigeur a decade ago.

We will be looking forward to the other concerts in the Chorus' 25th anniversary season.

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