Choral Music Review Print



WinterFest at Meredith College

December 7, 2008 - Raleigh, NC:


The Department of Music at Meredith College along with the Women’s Center for the Arts called it "A Yuletide Celebration." Staged in Jones Auditorium with both afternoon and evening performances, the traditional program was certainly celebratory of the Christmas season. Its scope utilized a wide array of choral and instrumental talents.

Of the ten subdivisions of the program, four were reserved for audience participation. What the singers of these familiar carols lacked in talent, they compensated for with gusto, all to the accompaniment of David Lynch at the pipe organ.

Kevin Bandanes was the director of all the choral groups. First up was the Meredith College Chorus, a smallish set of some fifteen members. Their version of the John Rutter “Christmas Lullaby” was offered with great charm. The seven members of the Encore group let loose with “Deck the Halls in 7/8,” a humorous treatment of the old standby. Springing as it does from an old Hasidic melody, their “Hava Nagila” constituted a somewhat ironic offering for a Christmas celebration. Roughly translated “Let Us Rejoice,” the message, though, proved quite appropriate for the occasion. Bandanes himself provided the arrangement, even lending his tenor talents as an eighth voice for the fine and vigorous rendition.

The main “serious” music of the evening was probably by the Meredith College Chorale, with their three selections from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. It could be argued that no work for treble voices surpasses this masterpiece. The twenty-four singers sounded well coached and competent. As in most of the other pieces, Frank Pittman accompanied the group here with grace. His piano provided most of the color and touch that one has come to expect from the more traditional harp accompaniment. An audience favorite was Frederick Silver’s “The Twelve Days After Christmas,” in which the recipient suffers a justifiable change of heart and tells the giver what to do with all of his bounty.

Jim Waddelow conducted the Meredith Sinfonietta, a fine student chamber orchestra that performed throughout the evening. Their pieces ranged in “gravitas” from Mark Hellem’s “Still, Still, Still” all the way down to “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” by John Rox.

Closing the proceedings was a work that has apparently become a Christmas tradition at Meredith. The combined choirs lined each side of the auditorium. All alumnae were invited to participate in “Personent Hodie” (arranged by the ever-present John Rutter) with organ accompaniment by Lynch. Better known as “On This Day Earth Shall Ring,” the piece was an obvious favorite of the students, the alumnae, and the audience.

While winter had not yet quite arrived, at least WinterFest was plenty festive, and it provided all of the spirit that the season could reasonably demand.