Carols and classics

UB choral groups prepare for annual holiday concerts

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UB’s choral groups are growing steadily since the arrival of their new director, Professor Claudia Brown, but the music ensembles will nearly double in size for their first performance with the UB orchestra. 

The combined groups –– UB Choir, Chorus and Chamber Singers –– are made up of roughly 110 students and will combine with the 90-person orchestra on Dec. 7th at Slee Hall. Its show, “'Fantasia on Christmas Carols’ and other English Holiday Masterpieces,” will feature a variety of holiday standards from the British repertoire. 

Despite planning this impressive endeavor, the orchestra and choral groups have not been practicing together. They plan to begin working together the final week before the performance. 

Brown instructed the group for three semesters. She chose to highlight these musical standards because she attended school in Cambridge and was familiar with English culture and music. Although the performance is composed of primarily Christmas music, it will also feature pieces in Hebrew and isiZulu. 

“The choirs are my heart and passion. We’re all really excited to demonstrate the vocal abilities of the group,” Brown said. “It’s incredible how the auditioned group becomes more cohesive every semester.”

Brown will also be instructing the chamber singers and choir for their performance of “Evening of Nine Lessons and Carols.” This performance will be held on Dec. 2 at the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. 

Nine Lessons and Carols is a tradition that comes from Cambridge. The performance will feature Christmas carols that alternate with readings from the nativity story. The tradition originated back in 1918 and will celebrate its 100th year. 

Maddy Fowler*, a senior political science major, performed the Nine Lessons and Carols in the Syracuse Children’s Chorus.

“It’s classic Christmas music that people will definitely know. I love this performance because it stirs nostalgic feelings without being morose and serious,” Fowler said. “Even if you aren’t religious, the music is transcendent and powerful.”

The group rehearsed for four hours a week since the beginning of the fall semester. Students had to learn over 15 songs that vary from traditional carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and powerful choral pieces like the 12-minute “Fantasia on Christmas Carols.”

Joseph Vertino, a senior music major, witnessed the group evolve since he first joined back in 2009. 

“The goal of a choir is to have the audience experience a spectrum of feelings and different ideas,” Vertino said. “I think the contrast between the highly religious music and the powerful, dynamic choral pieces is beautiful. I think people should go because there’s enough variety to ensure that something will resonate with everyone.”

The free concerts demonstrate the talent from within the music department and around campus. The group also hopes to reach the broader Buffalo community throughout the holiday season, and attract students and patrons alike.

“Not only is it free, but it’s always good to support the community,” said Tulie Loggia, a sophomore Italian major. “I’m excited to perform and show everyone the diverse setlist. Some songs are familiar and some are not.” 

*Maddy Fowler was an editorial editor at The Spectrum.  

Samantha Vargas is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at Samantha.Vargas@ubspectrum.com.