Commonwealth Chorale to perform

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Commonwealth Chorale, under the direction of Judy Amos of Blackstone will present Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in two performances in December. The opening concert will be Sunday, Dec. 2, 3 p.m. at College Church, 418 College Road, Hampden-Sydney, with a repeat performance the following Sunday, Dec. 9, 3 p.m. at Farmville United Methodist Church, 212 High St. Both performances will be dedicated to Norma Williams, Founding Director of the Commonwealth Chorale, who now heads the Chorale’s Advisory Board as Adviser/Consultant. For more information, visit or www.

Several prominent Central Virginia instrumentalists will accompany both performances. The pianist will be Kimberly Parker, Adjunct Professor of Piano at Liberty University. Also performing will be trumpeter Nat Boyd, member of the Petersburg Symphony Orchestra for the past 18 years, oboist Alyssa McKeithen, Adjunct Instructor of Oboe and Music History at Virginia Commonwealth University, and flutist Shona Freeman, member of the Richmond Concert Band and the concert group Flute Forte.

Soprano solos will be sung by Pam McDermott, Sarah Reynolds, and Marilyn Swanson, while alto soloists are Liz Carson and Jane Hohn. Tenor solos will be sung by Dale Brown and Alex Haskins, who sings the part of the Evangelist. Bass soloists are John Arehart, Reginald Davis, John Eastby, and Bob Horn.

Christmas Oratorio, which Bach completed for Christmas of 1734, is not an oratorio in the traditional sense of a single large masterwork, but rather takes the form of a six-part festive cantata which was meant to be performed in serial performances between Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany. The libretto is based on biblical accounts of the birth of Christ, derived primarily from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The story is narrated by a tenor Evangelist and advanced in various vocal formats including solo recitatives, arias, duets, grand-scale Choruses, and simple, melodic Chorales. The chorale was an invention of Martin Luther, who wanted to introduce a type of church music in which the congregation could participate. The chorales in Christmas Oratorio are based on popular hymn tunes of the time, which will also be recognized by many listeners of the present day. The use of multiple vocal and instrumental formats provides great variety and contrast, allowing the character of the music to range from jubilant exultation to tender devotion, as the Nativity story unfolds in all its power and passion. In celebration of this most joyous season of the year, the Commonwealth Chorale is pleased to present Bach’s enduring choral masterpiece to the communities of Southside Virginia.