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Jeff Rehbach, director, Middlebury College Community Chorus


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Community Chorus Presents Thanksgiving Concert Nov. 23

November 2, 2014

Featuring Work by Middlebury Composer Sam Guarnaccia


The Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual fall concert to celebrate Thanksgiving at Mead Chapel on the Middlebury College campus on Sunday afternoon, November 23 at 3:00 P.M. The concert is free and open to the public.


Conductor Jeff Rehbach notes, "The Chorus is especially privileged this season to be performing works by great composers of the past, alongside amazing new music by Middlebury composer Sam Guarnaccia. These pieces celebrate and honor the amazing universe in which we live."

The Thanksgiving program opens with the exuberant chorus The Heavens are Telling from classical composer Franz Joseph Haydn's "The Creation." The choir offers three choruses with historic texts from the Psalms by George Frederick Handel:  As Pants the Hart; Put Thy Trust in God; In the Voice of Praise and Thanksgiving. The Chorus honors and remembers two notable American musicians who died in 2014: the choir reprises Hymn for America by Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus, with words that give thanks for the world and people around us; and the singers offer a beautiful setting of To My Old Brown Earth by folksinger and environmentalist Pete Seeger.

The centerpiece of the program features the Middlebury premiere of selections from Emergent Universe Oratorio by Sam Guarnaccia. This powerful and sensitive work draws on texts that describe the universe, its creation, and its transformation. In addition to spoken narration accompanied by chamber orchestra, the performance includes four texts set for chorus: In the beginning/Earthrise Amen by Thomas Berry and Guarnaccia; Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry; Awakening by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, creators of the documentary video Journey of the Universe; and To See a World by William Blake.


As he composed Emergent Universe Oratorio, Guarnaccia notes that he sought "to create a work of art to inspire and support a new integral consciousness for humanity–that we are intimately, irrevocably, irreversibly interconnected with each other, interdependent with each other and with all life systems through the whole 13.8 billion years of this tremendous story, which is the greatest story there is."

Following its 2013 premiere at Shelburne Farms, the work was described by reviewers as "gorgeous and inspiring, amazing and thrilling, filling the space with beauty and depth." Cosmologist and evolutionary philosopher Brian Swimme, whose writings inspired much of Guarnaccia's composition, noted: "It was constantly surprising me with its fresh and invigorating sound. I felt my ears and senses and soul opened up by the sound. It is a fabulous and deep creation. I hope people everywhere will be able to experience it and come alive with its power."

Timothy Guiles accompanies the community chorus, and Jeff Rehbach marks his fifteenth season as director of the community chorus. Players from the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Champlain Philharmonic, and local chamber groups join the choir for this special performance. Hosted by Middlebury College, nearly 100 singers from throughout the Champlain Valley and across the lake in New York travel for weekly rehearsals to participate in this 150-year-old community tradition. For more information, check on the web at or contact director Jeff Rehbach at (802) 989-7355.           


Mahaney Center for the Arts
Middlebury College
South Main St./Route 30 South
72 Porter Field Rd.
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 443-3168 phone
(802) 443-2834 fax