Winter wonderland

Chico State’s biggest fundraiser, the “Glorious Sounds of the Season” concert, promises holiday glow from all directions

Last year’s “Glorious Sounds of the Season” concert was a resounding success, and there is no reason to expect otherwise from this year’s second edition, presented this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

A good Christmas-time concert is less a matter of pulling an audience into different places and experiences than it is a kind of return to an idealized childhood world, to the family, the hearth and the home.

Last year, CSU Choral Director Jeffrey Gemmell heightened this sense of being comfortably surrounded by holiday warmth by positioning his singers and performers throughout the Harlen Adams Theater so that his audience could bask in a glow coming at them from all sides. That is his plan again this year.

Thus the CSU Brass Choir will play a couple of pieces from the forward right corner of the audience, the Vocal Jazz Choir will sing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” from behind the audience’s right shoulder, the Chamber Singers will sing “Christmas Daybreak” from behind the audience’s left shoulder, and the lately developed CSU Barbershop Quartet will sing “Winter Wonderland” from the sound booth above the rear of the auditorium—to name a few.

The program contains a variety of performances by not only the CSU chamber singers and 200-member Choral Union, but also by familiar Chico-scene soloists such as Opera Workshop Director Ying Yeh, early-music soprano Daun Hayes, mezzo-soprano Barbara Thornburgh, and popular CSU baritone Liang Zhang.

When I talked to Gemmell, he mentioned several new performances that would be added to this year’s highly diverse program.

These will include several Jewish works, the debut performance of the newly re-formed Chico Children’s Choir, a bluegrass group called the Chico Newgrass, the above-mentioned barbershop quartet, a Faculty Handbell Ensemble, and a two-piano rendition of Respighi’s “Noël, Noël” by faculty pianists Robert Bowman and John Milbauer.

The program also includes selections from organist David Rothe, from the University’s Wind and Brass Choirs, and various small ensembles—all, as usual, punctuated by audience sing-alongs.

I look forward to such curiosities as the Brass Choir’s "Santa Meets Sousa," the Children’s Choir, the Newgrass ensemble’s version of Irving Berlin’s "White Christmas," the Low Brass Choir’s "Hava Nagila," and, especially, the concert-ending "Betelehemu," a highly rhythmic and percussive, Nigerian "let-us-go-to-Bethlehem" carol. I look forward to the rest as well.