Friday, December 17, 2010

Celebrate Christmas with Coro Vocati

Coro Vocati is Atlanta's newest a cappella vocal ensemble.  As Coro Vocati explains:

Vocati is Latin for the called, thus a choir of the called.  Coro Vocati seeks to provide a professional-quality choral experience for gifted musicians who understand their 'call' to serve as music educators, church musicians, vocal teachers, singers, and conductors.  Our 'raison d'etre' is to create a workshop, in rehearsal and concert, for the inspiration and continuing education of music educators and professional music colleagues.

Founder and artistic director John Dickson is a lauded choral scholar and conductor with an international CV who has worked in the US, Canada, the UK, Russia, and various European countries.  He became Dean and Professor of Conducting at Mercer University's Townsend School of Music after directing choral studies and chairing conducting at Texas Tech.  The driving force behind Coro Vocati, Dr. Dickson has persuaded 25 busy music professionals in the metro-Atlanta/Macon area to squeeze even more time out of their full and complex lives to make music together under his leadership. For Sunday's concert (Dec 19) at 3 PM, they are joined by organist Michael McGhee -- and Coro Vocati alto Carol Goff will double as piainst in this program, too.

Coro Vocati made its Spivey Hall debut last December in a Christmas concert for high school students, and I'm glad they're back -- I'm keen to hear what they'll sound like with a full year's experience as an ensemble, supported by a more developed  administrative infrastructure. 

Thus still a relatively young organization.  But artistically very promising!  Their Christmas program, "Heaven and Earth in Little Space," is organized topically: 

I. Introit
II. The Mystery
III. The Rose
IV. The Virgin
V. The Kings
VI. The Carols

And there are several works of special interest I'm looking forward to, foremost among them Morten Lauridsen's O magnum mysterium, the original Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming by Praetorius and a setting of this 16th-century melody by Jan Sandstroem, born in 1954 -- plus two pieces by Herbert Howells, whose work for vocal ensemble I really enjoy (my first discoveries were courtesy of the Dale Warland Singers, from my Minnesota days), and Eric Whitacre's Lux arumque, a profoundly beautiful piece.  Lighter works also have their moments in this program, which also features a piece by Moses Hogan that I expect will be in the tradition of the African-American spiritual, Glory, Glory, Glory to the Newborn King -- and this celebration ends with A Musicological Journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas by Craig Courtney (also born in 1954), which (from the title alone) will likely add a moment of jollity to Sunday's concert...!

Throughout the program, there are opportunities for individual members of Coro Vocati to shine as soloists, and John Dickson will surely "connect the dots" of the varied and diverse works by offering some commentary from the stage along the way.

So come hear some excellent choral music in Spivey Hall on Sunday to lift your spirits -- the Hall's acoustics are especially gratifying (for the performers and the audience alike)  for singing, and this program offers a wealth of Christmas treats.  After this performance, Spivey Hall is silent until the New Year.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Five Holiday Concerts at Spivey Hall this weekend!

The Spivey Hall Children's Choir's three December concerts, Joe Gransden's Big Band Holiday Show with guest vocalist Francine Reed, and The Atlanta Singers' annual Spivey Hall Christmas concert are all happening this weekend -- lots of great festive music in store for us here!

The first of the three Children's Choir concerts is Friday evening at 7 PM, when all 170+ of the entire Chiildren's Choir Program membership sing, spotlighting the Spivey Hall Young Artists under the direction of Craig Hurley, and the Children's Choir under the direction of Dr. Martha Shaw.  At the time of writing, there are about 18 tickets remaining for Friday's concert.  The Saturday and Sunday concerts (both at 3 PM) by the Children's Choir -- which also showcase the advanced singers of the Tour Choir performing John Rutter's Dancing Day with harpist Nella Rigell -- are sold out!  

These are joyous occasions, especially when everyone on stage and in the audience is singing along with Spivey Hall's Fratelli Ruffatti organ for "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful" -- such a big, stirring, majestic sound!  I look forward to it greatly each season -- it never fails to move my spirit.  Spivey Hall could not be more proud of the talented musicians in the Children's Choir Program, and we are truly grateful for the dedication and talents of Dr. Martha Shaw, Judy Mason, Craig Hurley, Steven Wooddell, Carol Abarr and Sharon Bonner -- the "Big 6" responsible for the strength and success of the Children's Choir Program, working closely with the students and their families.  A bonus to the great music:  if you like cookies, there are cookies in abundance after each peformance (yum).

Saturday night at 8:15 PM, jazz trumpeter and vocalist Joe Gransden returns to Spivey Hall for his Band Band Holiday Show and a very special guest vocalist, Francine Reed.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's has named this performance a "Hot Pick" for this weekend

"If you’re looking for a swinging holiday, here’s the place to be. The Atlanta trumpeter and his band will be joined by the bold, big-voiced Francine Reed. The charisma of these two beloved performers could light up Spivey Hall without benefit of electricity."

And Sunday evening at 7:30 PM, The Atlanta Singers and conductor David Morrow perform "A Nowell Fantasy," with mostly a cappella (unaccompanied) holiday music ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries, including Tomas Luis de Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium, Eric Whitacre's Lux Arumque, and Jocelyn Hagen's See Amid the Winter Snow with cellist Ismail Akbar, plus We Wish You a Merry Christmas, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and audience participation in sing-alongs of The First Nowell and Angels We Have Heard on High.  

The Atlanta Singers regularly perform in December at Spivey Hall.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has warmly praised this tradition: 

 "This little concert could well be the musical highlight of the whole holiday season in Atlanta, just in terms of the pure joy for the listener.  And as for technique, anyone who has ever sung in a choir will sit in wonder.  These guys are money." 

And a great value, too -- tickets for The Atlanta Singers are just $20 for adults and $10 for children.

Tickets are available online at or from the Box Office, which opens one hour before concert time. 

And don't forget -- next weekend (Sunday, December 19 at 3 PM) there's Coro Vocati and conductor John Dickson.  See the website for details...and a special blog post about this early next week.