Choir performs Christmas celebration

The Emo Centennial Choir performed its seventh-annual Christmas celebration Monday night at the Christian Reformed Church there.
“I thought it went very well, and I was really happy to walk out and see everybody in the crowd,” enthused choir director Renée Martin-Brown. “That’s probably one of the best crowds we’ve had since we started in 1998.
“It was awesome to see chairs in the back—that’s how you know you have a full house,” she added.
The evening began with Kelsey Quibell playing some favourite carols on the violin.
“She really set the tone of the whole evening,” said Martin-Brown, noting it was the first time they had invited an instrumentalist just as an instrumentalist and not as part of the choir’s performance.
“I got lots of great comments that it was so beautiful,” she added. “The lights went down and the music came on, and it kind of got people in the mood.”
The performance this year was special as the choir was being recorded for a CD.
“Because we were recording, the performance had whole different tone,” said Martin-Brown. “The choir had a little ‘mic fright’ and they had that added pressure to do a good job.”
The choir sang 10 pieces, including “Glory on a Christmas Morn,” “Christmas Noels,” and “Carol of Remembrance.”
They also had guest instrumentalists Diane Veldhuisen (flute) join the choir on “Shepherd’s Carol” and Dan Vos (trumpet) add flavour to “Angels, Sing Glory,” which incorporated Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” traditional carols, and the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
Scripture readings read by members of the choir helped to tell the Christmas story throughout the evening.
The choir also performed one piece a cappella, “Comfort and Joy”—without any piano accompaniment.
“They had to work so hard on this one,” Martin-Brown remarked. “That is the first piece in the seven years we’ve done our concerts that we’ve ever sang a cappella.
“It’s not the first time we’ve attempted one, but it’s the first piece I didn’t actually give into having the piano play.”
Martin-Brown noted they had tried a couple of times at Easter to sing a piece a cappella.
“It’s just the most difficult thing to do,” she explained. “It’s difficult because you have to stay in beat and in rhythm, and it’s difficult because you have to stay in pitch and you have to stay together.”
But she said it came off really well, especially since the choir also was singing six different parts in the song.
“Not only are they trying to sing a cappella, but they’re divided, divided, divided, so each one of those groups is smaller and trying to hold it all together,” Martin-Brown stressed.
The choir also performed a piece in a “calypso” style—”Tell the Good News”—complete with bongo drums and a shaker.
“We always try to have the little calypso, island kind of feel,” said Martin-Brown. “And in ‘Tell the Good News,’ usually you would be clapping at the end.
“But with the recording, I didn’t encourage the clapping because I didn’t want that to be all you heard.”
The accompanist for the performance was Lisa Vos.
“Lisa is fantastic,” Martin-Brown enthused. “I really owe her because she helps me. I was very lucky that she moved here when Cheryl [Lowe] decided to retire from us.”
But Martin-Brown noted Vos is having a baby in February.
“So we’re kind of in another transition to figure out what we’re going to do for the spring—usually we do an Easter concert,” she explained.
Martin-Brown’s two favourites pieces of the night were “Cradle of Hope” and “A Christmas Blessing” because she likes the text:
“You know the blessing of Christmas. Love and peace to light your way. All of its warmth and wonder—not just at Christmas, but each and every day.”
“I think it’s so true,” she said. “If we could just keep that sentiment throughout the year, we’d be in much warmer, gentler place.”
The audience also got an added treat by hearing Martin-Brown perform in the final piece of the evening. She sang the recititive—“And suddenly there was with the angels”—to Handel’s “Messiah” before the “Glory to God” choral part.
She said it was something the choir talked her into it.
“It was nice for me to get to sing because I don’t ever get to sing with them. It’s the one thing about directing,” she noted.
Martin-Brown also said she tried to have a contrast in the musical selections so they don’t all sound the same.
“We had some familiar carols, incorporated with different arrangements,” she noted. “And I think everyone enjoyed it [the variety] a lot.”
The choir accepted free-will offerings for the performance, with the proceeds—more than $500—going to the Emo Hospital Auxiliary.
The CDs of the evening’s performance will be on sale starting next Tuesday (Dec. 20). But Martin-Brown stressed they are not a fundraiser, but a keepsake.
“The choir worked so hard and I wanted them to have something to remember it,” she remarked.
If you’d like a CD, contact Martin-Brown at 482-3055 to make arrangements to pick it up or have it delivered. For a delivery in time for Christmas, call by the morning of Dec. 22.
Only about 40 CDs are available at a cost of $10 each.