Continuing a tradition that dates to 1999, the Island Community Chorus presents its annual holiday concert program this Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.
The program of 15 pieces, put together by Garrett Brown, the choir’s accompanist since 2000, is bookended by two favorite works from the season’s classical repertoire. The concert opens with Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis” and concludes, resoundingly, with the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Since early September, the choir has been working with director Peter Boak on a list of works that covers the whole range of choral music. “Grinch,” a medley from the motion picture based on the book by Dr. Seuss, hits a decidedly comic note, as does “Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John,” composed by Peter Schickele under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym of P.D.Q. Bach. (Schickele writes in his introductory notes that this work was probably composed “during a time of transition from the clumsy excesses of the Soused Period to the clumsy excesses of the Contrition Period.”)
More seriously but no less entertainingly, the chorus will perform two great seasonal works by John Rutter: “Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind” (from a poem by Shakespeare) and the hymn-like “Nativity Carol,” an earlier work with lyrics written by the composer himself. Rounding out the program are tunes from the jazz and gospel traditions, a delightful setting of “Little Drummer Boy,” a rousingly upbeat rendition of “Jingle Bells” and a song in Hebrew, “Al Shlosha D’Varim,” for the season of Hanukkah.
Performing as vocal soloists this weekend are two members of the chorus: Molly Conole in a piece titled “Spotless Rose” by the Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, and Jenny Friedman in the Christmas spiritual, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy.” Violinist Rebecca Laird will accompany the sopranos and altos of the chorus in their performance of a rousing bluegrass number, “Cherry Tree.”
Peter Boak says that Garrett Brown approached him late this summer, asking if he might take on the task of compiling the December concert program. “He had obviously thought about this before we talked about it,” recalls Boak. “He kind of had a game plan in mind. This concert really serves to illustrate all the different ways these holidays are observed and spent. It’s a challenging program, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a little bit more extensive than what we usually do in December, but it makes for a great program.”
Performances will be given at 7:30 pm, Saturday, Dec. 2, and at 3 pm, Sunday, Dec. 3. After each concert the chorus will host a reception with holiday sweets, savories, and beverages downstairs in the Baylies Room of the Old Whaling Church. Admission is a suggested donation of $15; children and students are admitted free.