The Quinebaug Valley Singers, one of this area's largest and liveliest community choruses, is preparing a knockout program for their spring concerts. It's titled "How Can I Keep from Singing," after the great Quaker hymn, which the group will sing in a thrilling arrangement accompanied by virtuoso keyboardist Brooks Milgate. The concerts will happen at the St. Joachim Chapel, St. Anne / St. Patrick Parish, corner of routes 20 and 148 in Fiskdale, Mass. (Saturday, May 19th at 7:30 p.m.) and at the Evangelical Covenant Church just off the common in Woodstock, Conn. (Sunday, May 20th at 3:00 p.m.). Both concerts are free, with a freewill offering collected before intermission. And both venues are fully handicap-accessible.

Many of the pieces on this Spring's roster have a hymn-like or anthemic quality, and all of them celebrate life, rebirth, spring, or nature in some way. The stylistic range is vast: from the delightful and carefully crafted 17th-century English round "Hey ho, to the greenwood" to the inspired cinematic pop of Elton John's "Circle of Life"; from Toby Tate's delicate setting of an Emily Dickinson poem, "To make a prairie," to the Gaelic hymn "Morning has broken"; from Pete Seeger's wonderful setting of the Book of Ecclesiastes' "To everything there is a season" ("Turn! Turn! Turn!") to the African American declaration "I feel like goin' on" (with its rapid-fire alto part, in Ysaye Barnwell's arrangement); from the lilt and innocence of "Spring Has Come" (1582) to the gritty yet affirmative "Seasons of Love" from Jonathan Larson's musical Rent (1995). And there is much more diversity than even these examples suggest.

This is one of those concert programs where chorus members--and likely many in the audience as well--may be hard pressed to identify a single favorite song. Is it Marty Haugen's joyfully solemn processional hymn, "Sing Out, Earth and Skies," with flute, organ-stop bells, finger cymbals, and tambourine accompanying the chorus? Is it John Clements's evocative and romantic little "Flower of Beauty," directed sensitively and with a sure hand by chorus member Johanna Chernisky? Is it the tune of the wonderful Finnish national anthem "Finlandia," setting stirring words (by Lloyd Stone) that begin "This is my song, O God of all the nations"? Or is it John Rutter's captivatingly beautiful music in "For the beauty of the earth" (whose performance is dedicated to the memory of former QVS member Janet Farrell)? Come and be entertained by some top-notch choral singing, and make up your own mind as to your favorites!


STURBRIDGE, 13 NOVEMBER 2018 -- The Quinebaug Valley Singers, a community chorus centered in Sturbridge, will celebrate the holiday season with a pair of concerts titled "Light Out of Darkness."

QVS usually has its Saturday evening concert at the St. Joachim Chapel, but they're breaking with tradition this time around in order to allow both concerts to start in darkness, then add increasing light throughout. With no windows in its sanctuary, St. Joachim is able to be rendered nearly dark in the middle of an afternoon; the Elm Street Church, with its lovely stained-glass windows, can only be dark after nightfall.

Why the emphasis on light and dark? Because Christmas and Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice all happen at a time of the year when darkness is keenly felt, and the promise of returning light is joyfully anticipated. QVS Music Director Nym Cooke has selected a program that reflects these polarities on the season. The first half of the concert is comprised of pieces that present the many different aspects of darkness--mystery, peacefulness, even fear. In contrast, the second half will contain songs blazing with light--celebratory, affirming, joyous light. The lighting in both venues, changing throughout the performance, will accompany and accentuate what is happening musically.

The musical fare ranges widely both in style and energy. So many kinds of energies animate this season's music: pathos and exultation, tenderness and triumph, meditation and merriment. All these and more will be palpable to the audience. Trumpet and kettledrums will add color to one work; a flute obbligato will decorate another; one song's verses are sung by a soloist accompanying himself on guitar. There will be folksongs, jazzy numbers, classical classics, and hymn tunes. There will be a world premiere, of a piece written by QVS bass Ken Smith; there'll be vocal solos by the chorus's two youngest members; and guest conductor Ted Bradley (Director of Music at the "Hill Church" in Woodstock) will lead two pieces. And there may even be sugar-plum fairies.

As much a journey as a concert, "Light Out of Darkness" promises musical treats of many sorts. Plan to make the Quinebaug Valley Singers' performance a stop on your own holiday journey!