In our country, few regions the size of the Monterey Peninsula offer the wealth of excellent December choral music we enjoy every holiday season.
We are also graced with lovely church and mission settings throughout the county with acoustics ideal for large choruses singing celebratory sacred music from the Renaissance to freshly penned gems by today's composers.
This choral bounty draws on exceptional professional and nonprofessional singing talent in the region led by gifted music directors.
For many lovers of the December choral repertoire here, attending the Carmel Mission program of I Cantori di Carmel is a longtime tradition.
Directed by music professor Sal Ferranteli, I Cantori usually combines familiar choral gems with lesser-known works and occasional premieres of new works as with this year's excellent 2012 cameratholiday program "Blessed Be the Time."
It began with a processional by William Byrd followed by a contemporary work by Robin Wells "I sing of a Maiden" featuring the vocal richness of baritone Kaveh Niazi and setting of a 15th century English carol "Adam lay ybounden" by 20th century British composer Peter Warlock.
The program progressed through selections by early composers Giovanni Gabrieli, Guillaume DuFay and delivered a core of splendid works by contemporary composers including works by Gustav Holst, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ernest Block, Joseph Rhienberger and two bright and vivid movements from Daniel Pinkham's "Christmas Cantata.
A highlight of the concert was Susan Mehra's adaptation and arrangement of Holst's "In the Bleak Midwinter" with I Cantori's small chamber ensemble VOCI singing at the back of the basilica moving toward the larger chorus at the front. This created a lovely antiphonal effect in the mission.
A splendid brass ensemble joined the chorus for many of the numbers, lending a heightened celebratory quality. It has been quite a while since I have enjoyed the sound of I Cantori. It is very good to be back.
This weekend, another beloved local chorus, Camerata Singers, presents its a cappella holiday choral program "Hidden in Light" directed by John Koza.
Koza conducts music of Tomas Luis deVictoria, settings of "The Good King Wenceslas" and "Angels we have heard on high" and "Here we come a-caroling" and more.
A Chanticleer Christmas
Now would be a good time to purchase tickets for Chanticleer's Carmel Mission concerts on Dec. 21. I attended a performance of their annual Christmas tour at the Stanford Memorial chapel this week and can report that this year's program is superb, one of their best.
This brilliant, world-famous, 12-man ensemble sounded heavenly, impeccably singing a selection of old favorites alongside new works and settings.
The Stanford concert was being recorded that evening for rebroadcast on American Public Media. I will have more to say about Chanticleer and this concert in next week's GO! In the meantime I recommend visiting their website at www.chanticleer.com or call (800) 407-1400 for seats at the 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. concerts on Friday, Dec. 21 at the Mission.
For more by Barbara Rose Shuler visit her website at www.barbarasbest.com.GO!
·What: Camerata Singers "Hidden in Light"
·Where and When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Salinas (1071 Pajaro St.) 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey (500 Church St.) and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec.16, at First United Methodist Church of Pacific Grove (915 Sunset Drive)
·Tickets: At Bookmark in Pacific Grove; Pilgrim's Way Bookstore in Carmel; Wild Bird Haven in Monterey (next to Whole Foods) and Zeph's One-Stop in Salinas, or call 642-2701