College Community Chorus celebrates Thanksgiving

One hundred singers will soon take their places on stage in the Robison Concert Hall at the Mahaney Center for the Arts as the Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual Thanksgiving concerts. These free, hour-long programs take place in a special performance on Saturday evening, November 19 at 7:00 p.m. and an encore presentation on Sunday afternoon, November 20 at 3:00 p.m.  Please note this year’s change in location from Mead Chapel to the Center for the Arts. All are welcome!

community chorus singers

College students and community members prepare for annual Thanksgiving concert. Photo: Anastasiya Prokhorenko, ’19

This season’s program includes historical works from the European choral tradition alongside breathtaking contemporary works written during the past decade. The songs feature celebratory psalm texts with a Thanksgiving theme, as well as music with words that reflect the changing seasons and a longing for justice and peace, important to so many people at this time.

The choir offers Chandos Anthem No. 9 by Baroque composer George Frederic Handel. Its four choruses – reminiscent of the spirited music found in his Messiah – contain dramatic shifts in textures and harmonies, scored for string orchestra and oboe. The program also includes Mozart’s expressive Ave verum corpus, a traditional text from the Roman Catholic tradition.

The chorus welcomes the change of seasons with music by Zachary J. Moore, one of a new generation of American choral composers. With beautiful melodies, he vividly paints the poem October Song, written by Wisconsin poet laureate Max Garland. In O Notte (O Night), composed earlier this year, distinguished conductor-composer Z. Randall Stroope dramatically scores selected phrases of a Michelangelo poem, “O night, in dreams you carry me,” for choir, piano, solo violin and cello.

Distinguished arranger, composer and conductor Craig Hella Johnson creates a lyrical musical setting the words of Mattie Stepanek’s Psalm of Life, written just before Thanksgiving 2003. Mattie, a published poet and peace advocate, died a month before his 14th birthday from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. From the Hebrew tradition, contemporary composer Allan Naplan sets the text of Al Shlosha D’varim: truth, justice and peace sustain the world. The inspirational words of Mother Teresa, “If we have not peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other,” provide the foundation for an award-winning 2010 work, All Works of Love, by Pacific Northwest composer Joan Szymko.

Conductor Jeff Rehbach notes that this program offers to listeners and performers alike vivid, dramatic, and expressive writing for chorus, piano, and chamber music ensemble. Local teachers who play with the Vermont Symphony, Champlain Philharmonic, and Burlington Civic Symphony orchestras join the chorus for this performance.

Members of the College Community chorus travel for weekly rehearsals from throughout the region, including

community chorus singers

College faculty, staff, and community members prepare for Thanksgiving concert. Photo: Anastasiya Prokhorenko ’19

Cornwall, Weybridge, Middlebury, Ripton, Bristol, Monkton, New Haven, Waltham, Vergennes, North Ferrisburgh, Charlotte, East Middlebury, Salisbury, Leicester, Brandon, Orwell, Shoreham, Randolph, Port Henry, Westport and Moriah. College students hail from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, West Virginia, Idaho, North Dakota, Florida, Costa Rica, China and Kenya.

Jeff Rehbach is in his seventeenth season as conductor of the College Community Chorus, and Timothy Guiles serves as the ensemble’s remarkable accompanist. The group welcomes without audition all singers who delight in participating in this 150-year-old community tradition, hosted by Middlebury College.