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Pilgrim Festival Chorus brings rejoicing and sing-alongs to 'Ceremony of Carols'

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By candlelight, a towering tree, wreaths on every window, and shimmering snowflake decorations, audiences sat in velvet pews awaiting The Pilgrim Festival Chorus’s ‘Ceremony of Carols’ featuring the works of Britten, Rutter, and Susa on Sunday, December 8. The concert took place at the Church of the Pilgrimage, 8 Town Square in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The Pilgrim Festival Chorus Music Director William B. Richter, accompanied by harp, marimba, and guitar, enthusiastically led these carolers into the spirit of the season. Visit www.pilgrimfestivalchorus.org for all their upcoming events.

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The Pilgrim Festival Chorus was thrilled to have this degree of expert harp, marimba, and guitar accompaniment together for the very first time. Harpist Chaerin Kim opened the concert, gently tickling the strings into a soothing melody, setting the tone for the afternoon. Kim accompanied the women’s chorus with John Rutter’s ‘Dancing Day: A Cycle of Traditional Christmas Carols.’

Having seen their Carmina Burana,’ production earlier this year, Pilgrim Festival Chorus has exhibited mastery of different languages including Olde English and beyond. In ‘Ceremony of Carols,’ derived from a series of poems in medieval languages, audiences are treated to Catalonian, Castilian Spanish, Mexican, Andalucian, and Biscayan to name a few. Audiences were easily able to follow the translations in the program.

Led by devoted Music Director William B. Richter, the men’s and women’s chorus gave a soaring tribute to these challenging, traditional carols. For example, when the women’s chorus sang from John Rutter’s ‘Dancing Day: A Cycle of Traditional Christmas Carols’ gorgeous movement, ‘Tomorrow Will Be My Dancing Day.’ This movement is a dreamlike, sweeping, sequence of rejoicing and musically portraying a couple sharing a splendid waltz, enhanced by the harp.

While George A. Little’s award-winning guitar and Chaerin Kim’s melodic harp made a tremendous impact on each movement during the concert, a particular highlight was the rare sound of Donald Albro’s marimba. The marimba added exotic authenticity to movements from Conrad Susa’s ‘Carols and Lullabys: Carols in the Southwest’ such as the Puerto Rican ‘Alegria,’ the Spanish ‘A La Nanita Nana,’ and the Andelucian ‘Campana sobre Campana.’

The men and women’s chorus joined together and exhibited skillful harmonizing with movements such as the Andelucian ‘Chiquirriquitin,’ with rhythm that harkened to other familiar carols with a short, upbeat ode to the nativity. Another outstanding performance was Benjamin Britten’s commanding ‘Wilcom Yole,’ his quietly haunting ‘That Yonge Child,’ and the precise, galloping pace of Robert Southwell’s ‘This Little Babe.’

The audience took the reins and concluded the concert as William Richter led a stirring sing-a-long with Christmas favorites, ‘Hark the Harold Angels Sing,’ ‘Angels We Have Heard of High,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ and ‘O Come O Ye Faithful.’

Join the Pilgrim Festival Chorus for another chance for a sing-along in the 4th annual ‘Messiah Sing’ on Sunday, December 22 at 3 p.m. Visit www.pilgrimfestivalchorus.org for all the details! Bring your own score and take part in this spirited afternoon just before Christmas!

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