MHC Vespers Ushers in Holiday Season December 4

Nearly 150 students will participate in Mount Holyoke's annual Christmas Vespers Sunday, December 4, at 4 and 7:30 pm in Abbey Chapel. This year marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the concert in its present format, designed by Hammond-Douglass Professor of Music Catharine Melhorn, who retires as the College's choral director at the end of the academic year.

Performing will be the Mount Holyoke Glee Club and Chamber Singers, led by Melhorn; the Chorale, conducted by Mark Bartley; Vocal Jazz, directed by Mark Gionfriddo; and the English Handbell Choir, led by student Maureen Deming '06. College organist Larry Schipull and a brass quintet are also featured.

In addition to familiar congregational carols and the much-beloved candlelight Gregorian chant processional, the concert will include seasonal choral works from around the world, from a medieval fauxbordon to Caribbean-style folk music accompanied by conga drums and claves. There will be several opportunities for the audience to join with the choirs in singing both familiar and lesser-known carols.

Glee Club's set includes the Womanly Song of God, an exciting new work by contemporary American composer Libby Larsen in which the choir becomes a drumming group, spinning sung rhythmic patterns into a buoyant, vibrant celebration of birth, renewal, and life. Glee Club's final selection "La Media Noche," sung in Spanish, showcases three student flutists.

Chorale will perform Felicity Williams's "The Animals' Carol," Vocal Jazz will premiere Gionfriddo's up-tempo arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and the Handbell Choir will offer "Do You Hear What I Hear." Amherst native, mezzo-soprano soloist E. Michelle Brooks '06, will sing Moses Hogan's arrangement of "Give Me Jesus."

The select 12-voice Chamber Singers will juxtapose two settings of an old-English text, "I Sing of a Maiden." The first setting is a sunny, pleasant work by Marion Bauer, an important composer and music historian who died in South Hadley in 1955. The second is a rather dissonant, spacious, introverted serial work by Peter Schickele, very unlike his better-known tongue-in-cheek PDQ Bach compositions.

All choirs will combine with the handbells to conclude the concert with Westfield composer Clifton J. Noble's arrangement of the English "Sussex Carol."

There is no admission charge for this concert, but seating in Abbey Chapel is limited. Doors open 35 minutes prior to each performance. For more information, call the music department at x2306 or Catharine Melhorn at x2018.