The Middlebury College Community Chorus takes to the Robison Concert Hall stage at Middlebury’s Mahaney Center for the Arts for its annual Thanksgiving concert, this year with the theme “Heart and Home.” Performances take place on Saturday evening, November 18, 7:00 pm, and on Sunday afternoon, November 19, 3:00 pm. Admission is free.
Conductor Jeff Rehbach notes that through a rich variety of historic and present-day music abounding with vivid writing for chorus and piano, the program evokes our longing for home, our heartfelt desire for peace and hope, as well as our joy in celebration and thanksgiving. Rehbach leads the 100-voice chorus as virtuoso pianist Timothy Guiles accompanies the ensemble.
The group delights in presenting music by Moira Smiley, who grew up in New Haven, Vermont, and now travels across the globe to share her music and songs. Stand in That River encourages us to “Come and stand in that river, current gentle and slow, send your troubles down-water, down on that water flow.”
The chorus reflects on life at home with These Green Hills, Vermont’s state song, in a new arrangement just written this past spring by Maarten van Ryckevorsel. The Road Home, by Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus, uses a tune from The Southern Harmony Songbook (1835) with new words: “There is no such beauty as where you belong; rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.”
The choir remembers those who have been a part of our lives with two works by contemporary American composers, Good Night, Dear Heart by Dan Forrest and Homage by Z. Randall Stroope. The first poignantly sets the words of a classic poem by Robert Richardson that Mark Twain notably placed on the headstone of his daughter who died in her early twenties. The second honors beloved parents and all who shape our lives.
Music wells up in our hearts with a passionate yet sensitive setting of I Dream a World by Langston Hughes, set by African-American composer Rosephanye Powell: “A world I dream, where black or white, whatever race you be, will share the bounties of the earth…and joy, like a pearl, attends the needs of all mankind.” Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo sets the ancient church text Ubi caritas (“Where charity and love are, God is there”) in a breath-taking setting that features solo piano alongside the chorus. Rosephanye Powell sets her newly composed song, I Will Sing, in a toe-tapping gospel style: “When freedom rings, I will sing of the love, of the peace, of the hope, of the joy that fills my heart.”
The program includes settings that depict a heavenly home with music from the 18th and 19th centuries: How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place by Johannes Brahms, and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God, grant eternal rest) by French composer Gabriel Fauré. The group will present Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace) from the Mass in B minor, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s final compositions. The choir will also sing Jubilate Deo (O be Joyful) by the German composer Felix Mendelssohn, based on an historic psalm of thanksgiving.
Members of the College Community chorus travel for weekly rehearsals from throughout the region, including Cornwall, Weybridge, Middlebury, Ripton, Goshen, Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven, Waltham, Vergennes, N. Ferrisburgh, Charlotte, East Middlebury, Salisbury, Leicester, Brandon, Randolph, Orwell, and Shoreham. College students hail from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, China, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, Texas, and California. The group is open without audition to all singers who delight in participating in this 150-year-old community tradition, hosted by Middlebury College. For additional information, check on the web at http://go.middlebury.edu/communitychorus or contact director Jeff Rehbach at 989-7355.