The Annapolis Chorale's "Celebration of Christmas" concert made history last week with its first Thursday performance. This musical Christmas gift from the singers, Annapolis Chamber Orchestra and Director J. Ernest Green has grown so popular in recent years that this season a Thursday performance was added to the usual Friday date, spreading the warm glow over two cold December nights.
During last Thursday's performance, the Annapolis Chamber Orchestra played music from Georges Bizet's "Farandole," from L'Arlesienne Suite No. 2 that proved appropriate to the season, three selections from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and a lively rendition of Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." Accompanying the chorus, the orchestra played an assortment of carols from Jeff Tyzik's Holiday Moods Suite.
A major reason for the popularity of this holiday concert is that the almost-200-member choir sings both a cappella and with orchestral accompaniment, creating its distinctive, glorious sound in a medley of traditional carols and popular favorites.
Adding their own charm, members of the Annapolis Youth Chorus, led by Director Laurie Hays, offered Shaw's Celtic Gloria. The Junior Division sang Gallina's "On a Starlit Night" and Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here," and featured the youngest members in a touching version of "Silent Night."
As is the custom each year, a guest reader tells seasonal stories. This year, National Public Radio alumna and television personality Wendy Rieger brought a flair to the task, offering an amusing version of A Visit from St. Nicholas that featured her representation of the kind of characters she often interviews. Rieger also read Merry Christmas, Everyone and the chorale's perennial favorite - Van Dyke's Keeping Christmas.
Soprano soloist Amy Cofield proved her versatility in a wondrous "Alleluia" from Mozart's Exultat, Jubilate that filled Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts with an exquisite sound that continued with the French carol "O Holy Night" and a heartfelt version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
Another highlight was when Green invited the audience to join the chorus in a medley of familiar carols.
The Annapolis Chorale continues its celebration of Christmas at 8 p.m. today and at 3 p.m. Sunday with performances of Handel's Messiah at St. Anne's Episcopal Church. For tickets: 410-263-1906.