The holiday choral music season is in full swing. On Saturday night, the Mondavi Center in Davis was host to the 15th annual “Home for the Holidays” concert presented by the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra.
This festive event demonstrates the close community connection between SCSO and its many faithful friends, sponsors, and fans. It is eagerly anticipated by the throngs who come from as far away as Modesto, the San Francisco Bay area, and even neighboring states.
They come to hear one of the largest choral groups in the United States, the only one to employ its own orchestra.They come to thrill at the harmony and majesty of the season’s most beautiful music performed with joy and precision by some of the most skilled musicians and singers around. They come to watch the elegant and animated Donald Kendrick direct with passion and great grace.
And they come to sing along with this august body, to be drawn fully into the magical experience of making music that lifts the spirit and moves the heart.
The program this year again featured sacred and secular works, most quite familiar works arranged for the complexity of a large choir.
The chorus sang the lilting “Personent Hodie”, a carol written in 1582 to a melody from the 14th century while ranged throughout the audience; and it took the entirety of Leroy Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival”, a sprightly long medley of familiar Christmas tunes for the massive 170-voice chorus to take their places on the risers. This is not a gather-‘round-the-piano informal chorus; to achieve the huge and masterful sound they produce, every voice is needed.
In the next three sections, the chorus gave the audience a wide sampling of different musical styles, from the quick and intricate “Carol of the Bells”, to a charming John Rutter composition, “Donkey Carol”, a shambling tale in 5/8 rhythm of the humble beast who bore Mary to Bethlehem.
The audience rose, as is traditional, for G.F.Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”—after a caution from Kendrick that this was not a singalong version.
After the intermission, the audience was delighted to sing a medley of well-known carols with the chorus and orchestra. This audience participation is a much-loved feature of the Home for the Holidays Concerts, and is one of the many ways that the SCSO has connected the community with the joy of singing and the love of great music.
One highlight of the remaining three sections was Barlow Bradford’s beautiful arrangement of the old Austrian carol “Still, Still, Still”. He also arranged four other selections in the program. Bradford is a distinguished conductor and composer from Utah; he has worked extensively with the Utah Chamber Artists and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The evening ended with a cheerful rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, and the crowd mingling and chatting with the musicians and singers in the lobby carried their good cheer out into the night, heading home for the holidays.