Published November 30, 2012
Hear Masterworks' twist on holiday songs and check out auction goodiesMOLLY GILMORE
If you go to Masterworks Choral Ensembles holiday concert Saturday night, you wont just get to hear favorite Christmas songs. You can also do some of your holiday shopping at the choirs silent auction.And if you want to give someone the opportunity to sing a solo on stage at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, this is, as far as we know, your only opportunity.Some people have dreams of American Idol moments, said choir director Gary Witley. This will be their chance.The choir has never offered the opportunity to sing a solo before, but has offered opportunities to conduct and will offer another Saturday night. In the past, the conducting bid has gone to $500, Witley said.Of course, conducting the group (which will be well rehearsed and able to sing with or without expert guidance) is one thing and singing a solo is quite another. The conductor and soloist will most likely be featured in the choirs June pops concert, Witley said.Witley guesses anyone whod be buying a solo most likely has a pleasing voice. Chuck Peterson, himself a soloist at Saturdays concert, agreed.It could be kind of a slick way to prospect for new members and a new soloist, Peterson said. There are a lot of people in this community who are so talented.Other items that will be up for bid: jewelry, art, theater tickets, gift certificates and even a flight in a private airplane.While the auction is a novelty, the music is the evenings main focus.In keeping with the theme of the Masterworks season, the program includes classical offerings (selections from Bachs Christmas Oratorio and Handels The Messiah). However, most of the evening is devoted to traditional carols, including Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night.A lot of times people say they want to go to a Christmas concert, and they just want to hear things they know, Witley said. If thats you, this is a great concert.That said, most of the tunes will have new arrangements that add a fresh touch to the old favorites. I try to look for different arrangements, Witley said, so the choir members wont say, Oh, yeah, Ive sung this 1,000 times. Were doing Away in a Manger, and its all redone, Peterson said. Its beautifully done.One song has perhaps been more bent than twisted. Its a spoof on Good King Wenceslas created by the fictional composer P.D.Q. Bach, a character invented by musicologist and humorist Peter Schickele.The title of the piece: Good King Kong Looked Out.Petersons solo, Panis Angelicus, is a traditional arrangement of the lovely hymn with words by Sir Thomas Aquinas and music by Cesar Franck.Its been sung by all the great tenors: John McCormack, Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras, he said. They all do it.Peterson said he doesnt get nervous singing solos. In fact, he said, he finds it easier than choral singing, where its important that a variety of voices work together to create a pleasing sound.When you sing in groups, you have to find that balance. You have to blend, he said. When I sing a solo, I can stylize it my own way.For audience members who like to sing, but not as a soloist, Saturday night will provide one opportunity: The choir will perform a sing-along version of O Come, All Ye Faithful.