Worthington Chamber Singers in concert Sunday
WORTHINGTON -- A celebration of Advent themes -- hope, love, joy and peace -- will be represented in song this Sunday at 2 p.m. when the Worthington Chamber Singers are in concert at Worthington's First United Methodist Church.
"Last year we performed with the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra at Memorial Auditorium, and that was very fun, but we are back at the church this year," explained Eric Parrish, now in his fourth year of conducting the select choral group. "We love that space because the acoustics are perfect for choral singing."
With 22 vocalists, several of them new to the ensemble, Parrish says the Chamber Singers have a slightly brighter sound than previously.
"The timbre is different, because, just as everyone has a fingerprint, everyone also has a sound print," said Parrish, an instructor of music and theater at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
"It's exciting to have something new to work with, and that keeps it challenging and interesting for me."
An alumnus of Gustavus Adolphus College, Parrish is steeped in the Swedish Lutheran tradition; thus, one of his favorite numbers in this concert is "Jul, Jul," which the group performs in Swedish.
"We sang in Swedish quite often at Gustavus," admitted Parrish. "This piece is much more beautiful in Swedish than in English, though the translation is also meaningful: 'Come, come, sacred Christmas; lower your white wings above the blood and sounds of war, over the sighs of humans ... come, sacred Christmas,'" he recited.
Swedish is only one of five languages in which songs will be sung; German ("Silent Night"), Latin ("Dona Nobis Pacem," meaning "grant us peace"), English and Spanish will also have their moments.
"I've included a Spanish hymn from 1972, 'Toda la Tierra.' Michael Benitez will accompany on guitar and sing the first verse in Spanish," shared Parrish.
Benitez, a 2010 Worthington High School (WHS) alumnus who was active in the school's music department and sang with the Chamber Singers during his time studying at Minnesota West, is now pursuing a degree in interactive design at Columbia College in Chicago.
Another recent WHS alumnus in the ensemble is Isaac Wass, a 2011 graduate who earned All-State choir status as a bass during his high school years and is now a student at Minnesota West.
"This is my first year in Chamber Singers and I love it," assured Wass. "I love coming here and singing with everyone because the literature is so good, everyone sings well, and it all fits together.
"'God Rest You Merry' is my favorite number, hands-down," revealed Wass. "It's upbeat, almost like a march, with a Victorian feel, and Mannheim Steamroller did a medieval and rock styling of it that I really enjoy."
Debra Moe, who teaches music to Prairie Elementary's second- through fourth-graders, is debuting in the group's soprano section. She would have been a 1994 WHS graduate, had her family not moved to Rockford, Ill., following her junior year.
"Singing is just a part of life for me," said Moe, who previously taught high school choirs for 13 years in the greater Chicago area. "I wanted to be back in a smaller town, and singing in a group like this is one of the advantages of being here."
Moe tabs the evocative "Inscription of Hope" as one of her preferred concert selections, partly because she actually took some classes with its composer, Z. Randall Stroope.
The "Sussex Carol," which Parrish has chosen as the concert opener, is another she names.
"It starts out with one section -- the sopranos -- drawing everyone into the celebration, and then the altos are the bells, gathering more attention," detailed Parrish of "Sussex Carol." "It's very fugal, and by the end of the second verse, all sections are joining in to proclaim, 'When from our sin He set us free, all for to give us liberty.'"
Soloists Kerry Johnson and Duane Anderson deliver heartfelt renditions of verses from the quiet and contemplative "In the Bleak Midwinter," and the concert will close with a rousing John Rutter arrangement of "Joy to the World," which Parrish says exemplifies the multitudes singing and rejoicing.
"Tenor Lee Christofels, a retired minister, helped me shape the music list into a liturgical format as the pieces relate to the four themes of Advent," related Parrish. "It might not be that noticeable to the audience, but that was the idea.
"Getting to make music and celebrate it with people at Chamber Singers each week is one of my favorite times of each week," Parrish continued. "We are excited to share this concert with everyone."
The Worthington Chamber Singers perform 2 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church, 408 11th St., Worthington. The concert is free and open to the public, though a free-will offering benefiting a local charity will be taken. The Worthington Brass will also appear as part of the concert.