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Songs of Rejoicing and Remembrance: Middlebury Community Chorus Thanksgiving Concerts

November 13, 2019

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual Thanksgiving performances on the Middlebury College campus at the Mahaney Arts Center's Robison Concert Hall at 7:00pm on Saturday evening, November 23 and again at 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, November 24. Historic and contemporary music fills the free, hour-long program entitled "Songs of Rejoicing and Remembrance." Jeff Rehbach conducts and Tim Guiles accompanies the 110 community and student members of the choir—among the largest choirs in the state!

The Middlebury College Community Chorus presents its annual Thanksgiving concert Nov. 23.

"This is the sound of one voice, one spirit, one people: voices singing together in harmony, all of us singing with love…" These words by North American composer Ruth Moody, who sings with the Canadian folk-roots trio The Wailin' Jennys, ring out as the concert opens. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Chorus will also present dynamic settings of historic psalm texts that give voice to gratefulness, celebration, and praise. They include Sing Out Your Joy by African-American gospel songwriter Victor C. Johnson; a song of praise entitled Modimo, arranged by South African composer-conductor Michael Barrett; and Ngokujabula! scored for chorus and percussion by contemporary composer Dan Forrest that energetically expresses jubilation with sweeping melodies and driving rhythms.

The choir will share songs of hope, gratitude, peace, and tribute, including the world premiere of Wings of the Morning by Middlebury College professor Peter Hamlin '73. He wrote this setting of hymn and psalm texts in memory of long-time chorus member Grace Weber '79, who passed away in December 2016, and her husband Steve, retired College forester, who passed away in May of this year. Iowa composer Elaine Hagenberg's The Music of Stillness exquisitely sets poetry by Sara Teasdale that opens with "There will be rest and pure stars shining." Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus wrote Hymn to the Eternal Flame in remembrance of all who suffered and perished in the horrors of the Holocaust; it begins, "Every face is in you, every voice, every sorrow, every memory, woven into fire." From the classical music tradition, Johannes Brahms composed an elegy with lush harmonies and expressive melodies entitled Nänie. With references to ancient Greek and Roman mythology, its text by nineteenth-century German author Friedrich Schiller poignantly depicts the death of that which is beautiful.

The chorus will offer the final movement from the Emergent Universe Oratorio composed six years ago by Middlebury alumnus Sam Guarnaccia '67 on a text by William Blake: "To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour." The program closes with  Luminous Night of the Soul, an uplifting work by award-winning Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo, who combines texts by the sixteenth-century Spanish poet and mystic St. John of the Cross and contemporary poet Charles Anthony Silvestri with its uplifting sentiment, "Praise to all music which soars to inspire!"

Instrumentalists from the Champlain Philharmonic, Vermont Symphony, Burlington Civic Symphony, Middlebury Community Music Center, and Middlebury Wind Ensemble augment the program as they perform several works with the chorus.

Come hear your neighbors from Middlebury, Cornwall, Weybridge, East Middlebury, Ripton, Goshen, Salisbury, Leicester, Orwell, Brandon, Bristol, Lincoln, Jerusalem, Starksboro, New Haven, Waltham, Vergennes, Monkton, North Ferrisburgh, Bridport, Moriah, Port Henry, Rutland Town, Williston, and students and teaching assistants from Germany, South Korea, Ontario, Indiana and Texas perform together. Contact director Jeff Rehbach, 989-7355, or on the web at go.middlebury.edu/communitychorus for more information.