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    Behind the scenes

    Christmas concerts by area choruses

    The Pilgrim Festival Chorus (left) will perform in Plymouth, while Community Voices Too!, a chorus for adults with developmental delays, will sing in Hingham.
    Photos Denise Maccaferri (left) and Michelle McGrath
    The Pilgrim Festival Chorus (left) will perform in Plymouth, while Community Voices Too!, a chorus for adults with developmental delays, will sing in Hingham.

    Aconcert of Christmas music through the centuries by the Plymouth-based Pilgrim Festival Chorus this weekend leads off the holiday season of musical performances by a host of local choruses.

    Other upcoming choral concerts in the next few weeks include two free performances of Handel’s “Messiah” in Quincy, and concerts in Hingham, Cohasset, Scituate, and Weymouth.

    “We’ll approach seasonal music in many ways,” William Richter, the Pilgrim Festival Chorus’s director, said of a program called “A Northern European Christmas.”  


    Conceived as a journey through a rich musical tradition stretching from medieval carols through contemporary compositions, the program takes listeners through the entire Christmas season with works for Advent, Christmas Day, and Epiphany. The selections were also chosen to provide examples of the choral traditions from a range of countries, including Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the former Czechoslovakia.

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    “The universal spirit of Christmas transcends the separation of centuries, country borders, and musical styles,” Richter said. “We’ll blend our communities of audience and choral singers together, creating joy that brings the spirit, beauty, and love to the Christmas season.”

    “It’s been a joyous time rehearsing this concert,” said Michelle McGrath, an alto in the chorus who also does publicity for the group. “You get the multicultural flavor of what each country brings to the season.”

    Included are carols based on folk tunes, Renaissance motets written by German composer Hassler and Dutch composer Sweelinck, works by Bach and Mendelssohn, and a number of 20th-century settings of seasonal texts. Several of the selections are from the “Piae Cantiones,” a collection of 74 late medieval Latin songs originating in Nordic and Central Europe and published in 1582. 

    The strong and stirring “Personent Hodie” (often translated by the lyrics “On This Day Earth Shall Ring”), one of the pieces from the Piae Cantiones, both opens and closes the concert.


    The work “Gaudete,” adapted by Canadian composer Stephen Hatfield, is a piece with an early Renaissance feel that incorporates additional English text into the original Latin.

    An arrangement of “Ave Maria” by 20th-century composer Franz Biebl in 1964 sets portions of the “Angelus” (the Catholic prayer that includes the salutation “Hail Mary”) as well as the beloved “Ave Maria.”

    Michelle McGrath
    Community Voices Concert

    The first concert by Community Voices Too!, South Shore Conservatory’s new adult chorus for people with developmental delays, will offer holiday favorites including “Over the River” and “Feliz Navidad” on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the music school’s campus in Hingham. A non-auditioned chorus, Community Voices Too! provides ensemble singing and performance opportunities for more than 30 adults and young adults.

    It’s the debut concert for the Community Voices Too! chorus formed by Eve Montague, director of the South Shore Conservatory’s music therapy department. A similar group began a few years ago at the school’s Duxbury campus.

    “It’s important not only to have therapies but to create a sense of community,” said McGrath. “And it’s all different kinds of people. Community is a big thing. Developmentally delayed people don’t have a lot of resources like everybody else. That’s why it’s growing and has taken a strong hold.”


    Other upcoming choral concerts include this weekend’s two free performances of Handel’s “Messiah,” the oratorio that has become a traditional part of the holiday season, by the Eastern Nazarene College Choral Union at the Wollaston Church of the Nazarene in Quincy (Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.). Comprising college students and members of the community, the 60-voice chorus will be conducted by John Schnelle and accompanied by the Quincy Bay Chamber Orchestra, a 25-member professional group. The concerts feature solos by both music students and professional vocalists.

    The following weekend the Unicorn Singers and the Broad Cove Chorale combine in their ninth annual Christmas concert supporting the programs and services of Wellspring, a service organization located in Hull that offers counseling, food, clothing, transportation, and education for South Shore residents in need of assistance. Titled “My True Love Gave to Me,” the choral program will explore the custom of gift-giving through song and story, featuring readings from Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse. Concerts take place Dec. 8 at 8 p.m. at House of Prayer in Hingham and Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at First Parish on Cohasset Common.

    The Choral Art Society will present “Viva Vivaldi,” featuring Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Haydn’s “St. Nicholas Mass,” on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Scituate. The Choral Art Society is a non-auditioned chorus that performs “challenging music for the enrichment and education of its members and audiences.”

    It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in Braintree, too. The Braintree Choral Society will perform Haydn’s “Missa Brevis St. Joannis de Deo,”  popular Christmas carol settings by 20th-century British composer John Rutter, and other seasonal music on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. at Old South Union Church, 25 Columbian St., Weymouth.

    Robert Knox can be reached at