“An Olde English Christmas” Dec 2011

This concert experience was created in three parts:
1) The first section was inspired by mystery, darkness, cathedral, Christ.
2) The second was centered on wonder, light, Mary, nature/nativity
3) The third was inspired by color, Great Hall, celebration, social.

I gave these adjectives and the music to five artists in our community to create a collaborative experience for all.  I’ve included the “Message from the Artistic Director” from that December program below as it describes in more detail the thoughts behind the design of that concert.

Visually was the following:

In complete darkness, concert chimes opened the program… with candles, singers circled the audience singing the opening chants, one tenor, then the men then women then all.  The remainder of the first set was by candlelight from the back, singers arranged around the art that was inspired by the music in the opening section.  One singer slowly lit candles around the first set of art during the music.

Instrumental musicians underscored a change of position, as singers moved front for 3 Magnificat movements, arranged around the art that was inspired by that music.  Another singer slowly lit candles around this second set of art.  The first applause of the concert came 8 pieces into the concert (about 25 minutes) after the soprano solo in the Et misericordia.

Singers moved in and out of different positions in the pieces that followed, small groups etc. underscored by the wind trio. The pieces that were upbeat ending with a flourish in the next 2 sections, predictably brought applause.  I often start a piano intro (if there is one) of the next piece over the top of the applause to maintain mood and momentum of the experience.  Sometimes I pause and allow the applause for a moment, but not often.  I almost never bow until the end…. too left brain.  I’d prefer that the audience stay in the moment, carried by the music until the end.

The third set was sung from another position, candles again were lit around the third and final set of art, lights came up a bit and the Christmas tree lights were lit.  (…celebration section!)

Audience joined us for their part in I saw three ships (both the singing and whistling parts) and Peace Peace, and after bows, all sang Auld Lang Syne as singers greeted the audience.  Bows happened up front then the singers circled the audience for Peace Peace.  Sometimes we invite some audience members to join us in the circle.

10 minutes before the concert I walk out and say a quick and casual hello on the mic. I remind the audience that, as always, they have a part in the creation of our time together.  We warm up for about 45 seconds, I tell them that they are sounding GREAT!, invite them to join us on Thursday nights for family choir, then draw their attention to the program where their parts are in bold.  We rehearse together, I tell them to watch me for their cue and I leave.  All of this takes about 8 minutes. Lights then go down, 2 minutes or so pass to clear the mood and create expectation, and we begin…

There was choralography on a couple of pieces and some pieces had wind parts for variety.  A local composer who arranged the Deck the Hall setting was in the audience but I almost never get on the mic and talk or introduce anyone.  I gave her a bow at the end along with instrumentalists etc.

In the Message from the Artistic Director I tried to explain a philosophical understanding to my approach to programming and concert creation:


The vision of Colla Voce of the Sierra is community and individual transformation using the creative arts as the catalyst.

A new generation has emerged that values memorable experiences and sensations as opposed to goods and services. An arts age is developing where design, story, empathy, and meaning are essential (even in corporate-level business), the right-brained are pursued and the creative arts are at the center of life rather than peripheral. A locality where the arts are prolific and integral will produce a rich and profoundly connected community as well as balanced young people that will move meaning fully and thus, successfully, into the next age.

This concert experience was crafted with these values in mind: design, story, empathy, meaning , collaboration and multi-sensory experience. I asked five local creative artists of various mediums to partner with us to create something experiential, memorable, and sensory that could be a vehicle for transformative experience. The artists were given the music that we were preparing as well as the adjectives of the triad of images that were in my mind when selecting the music. The first set was mystery-dark-cathedral-Christ, the second was Wonder- light-nature-Mary, and the third Celebration-color-Great Hall-social. The art work and stories created by these artists have become art as a medium of exchange, art as a gift as opposed to a collectible, and as Tolstoy says,

“a means of communion among people… the capacity of people to be infected by the feelings of other people”.

I have spent the last three summers in a Master of Music Choral Conducting program at CSULA and this year’s holiday concert fulfills part of the requirements for that program. Dr. William Belan and Don Brinegar, the co-directors of this program, and my dear colleagues—fifty conductors from around the globe—have radically transformed my world of music and have supported my inclination to color outside of the lines. It is with a sincere heart that I offer them my gratitude. Lastly, I am indebted to my husband, who gives me the crayons of my choosing , heart, mind and soul.