As Feedback swung our car into a parking space at the Municipal Arts Center on Fifth Street, the 100 or so members of the Oratorio Society of Charlottesville-Albemarle were already streaming into the building for their weekly rehearsal. Inside, they mingled amidst horseshoe-shaped rows of folding chairs that pointed towards a conductor’s podium and a well-worn Steinway piano.
Christmas chorus: The Oratorio Society kicks off the weekend with its holiday concert at the Paramount on December 21.
"We have a balance between old and new," conductor L. Thomas Vining told us when we asked about this year’s holiday concert, which will take place at the Paramount on December 21. "We have a couple pieces by Bach, as well as some traditional English carols and some contemporary arrangements by [Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra associate director] Mack Wilberg."
As the seats filled, Vining made his way to the podium, led the group through a vocal warm-up and then started into "Once in Royal David’s City," which opened with a quiveringly beautiful solo from Nancy Paulson. We watched and listened as the group practiced more tunes for Friday’s concert, including "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and Bach’s Gloria in Excelsis Deo (also known as the Christmas Cantata).
Video of the Oratorio Society rehearsing for its holiday concert.
What we’re listening to
"The Coolest," by Lupe Fiasco, (from The Cool)—The instrumental is built from soft piano loops and thick orchestral strings that build with choir-like background vocals, creating a somber soundscape—the perfect backdrop for Lupe’s complex (and somewhat introspective) metaphors addressing the allure of the hip-hop game.
"Open All Night," by Bruce Springsteen (from Nebraska)—From the opening notes of his amplified acoustic guitar, Springsteen simulates the sound of a runaway train streaming through the dark countryside while his voice coos like a choo-choo, then lets loose in a locomotive howl.
"Brass Buttons," by Gram Parsons (from Grievous Angel)
"What a Fool Believes," by The Doobie Brothers (from Minute by Minute)
"The Fall of Troy," by Tom Waits (from Dead Man Walking soundtrack)
"Driftwood" by Cursive (from The Ugly Organ)
The Oratorio Society’s rehearsal was impressive, but this Friday’s concert will offer even more. Twelve-year-old (and no doubt angelic) soprano Colleen B. O’Connor will open the night by singing "Hodie Christus Natus Est" ("Christ Is Born Today" in English) and a 40-piece orchestra will accompany many of the songs. We think one of the most interesting pieces of the evening will be Craig Courtney‘s "A Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas," which the program describes as a "humorous spoof of the redundant holiday tune" that journeys through musical history, from medieval chants to Sousa marches.
We hope you’ve got your tickets for the concert, though, because it’s pretty much sold out (last we checked there were only two single seats left). Vining says that, with the holiday concert’s continued popularity (all tickets were swiped up by early December last year), they may try to add a second night next year.
If you couldn’t snag Oratorio tickets (or if choral music isn’t your style), you can enjoy another popular holiday show: Jim Waive and Sarah White‘s Country Christmas. In its fourth incarnation, the event has expanded to two local dates this year, one at the Tea Bazaar on December 21 and one at Uncle Charlie’s in Crozet on December 22. And, if you happen to be near Thomas, West Virginia, during the holidays, you can catch the show at the Purple Fiddle on December 20.
Sarah and Sian Richards (usually the Acorn Sisters) will perform as the Manger Babies and Jim Waive’s Young Divorcees will become his Sweet Nutcrackers. "They’re always a good time," Jim says of the shows. "There is a real family vibe to it. Real laid back and fun." And this year will be just as special, we’re sure, especially since fiddler Anna Matijasic, who’s only been part-timing with the Young Divorcees since she moved away from town, will be there, along with other special guests and friends.
The Manger Babies (Sarah White and Sian Richards) will join Jim Waive and His Nutcrackers for the fourth annual Country Christmas at the Tea Bazaar on December 21 and Uncle Charlie’s on December 22.
Sarah says that, in addition to last year’s show being packed, there were a couple more reasons for adding the additional shows. They wanted to offer an option for smokers (Uncle Charlie’s) and nonsmokers (Tea Bazaar) and also expand last year’s successful collection of canned food for the Thomas Jefferson Area Food Bank. Those who bring multiple cans will get a $3 discount on the $8 cover charge.
And an exciting sidenote: Jim says the new Divorcees album will be released on February 15 at a Satellite Ballroom gig with the Acorn Sisters and another, yet-to-be-determined opening act.
We always like keeping an eye on the happenings of our man Coran. The dates for Bonnaroo, the annual Manchester, Tennessee, music festival that he helped found, have been announced: June 12-15. Also, Capshaw’s Red Light Management has partnered with Chrysalis Music Group USA and Vector Management to create a "revolutionary publishing company." One more step, we imagine, in Capshaw’s creation of his vast and comprehensive music empire.
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