The chorale presented their fall 2015 concert in the PAC on December 12 & 13, to appreciative audiences. The program, Seasonal Gifts & Celebrations, featured two extended compositions: Mid-Winter Songs by Morten Lauridsen, and The Nguzo Saba Suite by Glenn Edward Burleigh.
Mid-Winter Songs, published by Opus Music, is based on poems by Robert Graves, and was commissioned by the University of Southern California. The poems focus on the Winter Solstice, still celebrated by Nordic cultures. In many northern nations, the day is shorter than here in the Northwestern U.S. Many myths arose about why the sun didn’t shine for longer periods, kindling fear in many primitive cultures that the sun was dying, signaling the end of the world. The Print Makers of Astoria have created some visual impressions of the poems in Mid-Winter Songs, which were displayed in the lobby and were available for purchase.
The Nguzo Saba Suite featured Libby Olsen and Nara VanDeGrift of Maddox Dance Studio, choreographed by Emily Gilbertson. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karena in 1966 to give African Americans a special holiday of their own which would encourage consecutive focus on heritage, family, community and the worth and dignity of the individual, within a communal context. Kwanzaa was not meant to be a Christmas substitute, but was intended to eschew the emphasis on materialism which has so permeated American Christmas observances. While he envisioned it as a non-religious celebration, Karena hoped that celebrants would infuse it with their own personal values and family traditions. Composer Glenn Burleigh has done just that, explaining that he has approached the writing of both music and text for the Suites as an African man who is very much rooted in the Christian religion. The seven principles of Kwanzaa can be realized in any culture and in today’s global society.
Accompanied by guest pianist Andrew Pham of Eugene, the chorale also sang some traditional holiday songs, and the audience joined in for a singalong of Deck the Halls, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Jingle Bells, and a prop-infused Twelve Days of Christmas.