STOCKBRIDGE — For millennia, music has evoked the spirit of Christmas, whether heard in a sacred space or as a soundtrack for shopping excursions. And nothing embraces that spirit quite like gathering in community to hear singers lift their voices in celebration of the season.
On Dec. 10 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Stockbridge and again on Dec. 11 at Trinity Lime Rock Episcopal Church in Lakeville, Conn., Crescendo Chorus will perform “Resonet In Laudibus — Resounding Joyful Praises", an hour-long program of festive Renaissance and baroque music written on the Christmas theme.
The Berkshire Brass will join the vocal ensemble, adding a quartet of trumpets and trombones to the musical mix.
Crescendo artistic director and organist Christine Gevert will lead the 20-member chorus of professional and amateur singers that she founded two decades ago. The concert features a dozen choral works, along with instrumental fanfares and interludes for brass and organ.
“We will have some big pieces of the Venetian repertoire,” said Gevert by phone, “a mixture of something familiar, and a bit more complex and rich as well. We have 12-voice pieces, and three double-choir works. There’s something about this antiphonal effect with music bouncing from right to left in the room that is very festive.”
Several of the melodies are still heard in present day carols, she noted. “The one that gives the concert its title, ‘Resonet in laudibus,' is a lullaby to the Christ Child. And ‘O magnum mysterium' [O great mystery] by Giovanni Gabrieli for eight voices is one of the great holiday pieces.”
Composers featured also include Bartholomeus Gesius, Michael Praetorius, Jacob Handl, Hans Leo Hassler and Giovanni Bassano, as well as Johann Hermann Schein, Johann Pachelbel and Dietrich Buxtehude.
“The only thing that is not Renaissance is the ‘Christmas Oratorio’ by Johann Sebastian Bach,” Gevert said. “It’s very long, six cantatas, so we do excerpts of the Second Cantata, talking about joy and hope for the world. We sing two chorales and one of the most festive and virtuosic choruses that’s a real workout for the voices. Its very simple words, ‘Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth’ is a needed message.”
While one cantata “Ihr lieben Hirten" [Beloved Shepherds] by Andreas Hammerschmidt has a solo sung by local soprano Jordan Rose Lee, this is primarily an ensemble concert, Gevert noted.
“These pieces are intricate, there’s the echo dialogue in the double choir, and the polyphony intertwining of voices. That complexity is really breathtaking when it comes together and is aligned.”
The whole program is religious classical music, “all sacred pieces that really transcend any church affiliation,” Gevert said. “The spiritual message is the highlight.”
“Musicians throughout the ages have set this to choral music. Some of the biggest pieces are often not performed because they take intense rehearsing and choruses accustomed to multiple voices. It’s so important to make the effort.”
“We’re very lucky to have the brass players perform with us, two trumpets and two trombones,” she added. “You can’t beat that for Christmas or the holidays. Brian Kenner has performed with us for years on period natural trumpet, he is joining the Berkshire Brass as a guest on modern trumpet. David Wampler, the group’s leader, is a fabulous trombonist. So we’re glad to have them.”
In a new collaboration for Crescendo, visual artist Joe Wheaton will project an outdoor light show on the church building during the Stockbridge concert, weather permitting, and also on a screen inside the church. Snippets of the singers performing will intersperse Wheaton’s hallmark kaleidoscopic, jewel-toned images of overlapping and radiating shapes.
“It lights up the whole building, it’s ever moving, not static,” Gevert said. “Joe Wheaton is quite the artist.”
Audio of the concert will be piped outdoors at a neighbor-friendly volume, and people can bring lawn chairs and enjoy the program from the church yard.
The lights can also be viewed from the Red Lion Inn porch across the street, where seasonal beverages such as mulled cider and hot cocoa will be offered from 5 to 7 p.m..
An unnamed Stockbridge resident has organized and underwritten the light show, Gevert said; “They wanted to do something for the community, which is wonderful.”
Additionally, nonperishable food items will be collected at that concert for Lee Food Pantry.
Gevert doesn’t want anybody staying away from the indoor event for financial reasons, she said. Anyone who wants or needs free community tickets can send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If you can go to live music by any of the many choirs and musical groups performing, professionals or amateurs, do it,” she entreated. “It is uplifting and needed in these stressful times.”
“It is scientifically proven that music [triggers] feel-good hormones in our brains,” she added. “And our experience has shown us that, time after time. Sitting in a live concert, being there with the performers, is a treasure. We all need it.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Resonet In Laudibus — Resounding Joyful Praises," Renaissance and Baroque Holiday Music for Chorus & Brass
Who: Crescendo Chorus with soprano soloist Jordan Rose Lee and the Berkshire Brass with Peter Bellino and Brian Kanner on trumpets; David Wampler and William Carr on trombones; conducted by Christine Gevert from the organ.
When: 6 p.m., Dec. 10, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 29 Main St., Stockbridge (includes Light Show) and 4 p.m., Dec. 11, Trinity Lime Rock Episcopal Church, 484 Lime Rock Rd., Lakeville, Conn.
Tickets: $40, general admission; $75, premium preferential seating; $10, youth under 18
Information: 860-435-4866, crescendomusic.org
COVID-19 protocol: Masks required indoors.