STURBRIDGE, NOVEMBER 15 – The Wings of Song Chamber Chorale, directed by Nym Cooke, offers a program of pure fun to help folks put aside their woes and maybe catch a little of the holiday spirit. Wings of Song is one of the area’s oldest and most inventive choruses. Formerly known as the Quinebaug Valley Singers, and before that the Interfaith Chorale, its twice-a-year concerts have been entertaining, inspiring, and uplifting audiences for several decades.
This time around, as we all crawl out of a global pandemic, Music Director Cooke figured that people could use a little humor, old-fashioned sentiment, and just pure diversion at holiday time. So here is the lighter side of Christmas, to take your mind off—well, whatever it’s been on. There are gorgeous pop classics from the American songbook: “White Christmas” of course, along with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting…”), “Sleigh Ride,” and “Hurry Home for Christmas.” These songs’ lush and jazzy harmonies—American commercialism at its best—helped inspire the “Lite” in Cooke’s title for the program.
The chorus also dips ‘way back into the American pop past: to 1902 for Harry Eldridge’s “When Good Old Kris Comes ‘Round” (a great audience singalong), and to 1857 for James Pierpont’s “The One Horse Open Sleigh” (guess the modern title of that one). And the program even touches on classical music that has been “litened up”: Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” set for chorus, with the text being 100% “fa la la”s and “plum”s; and John Rutter’s finely-wrought “Banquet Fugue,” where the text is largely four different words: guzzle, munch, gobble, and chomp, with a well-placed (burp) at the end.
A range of traditions under the umbrella of “Christmas Lite” is touched upon, with songs like “African Noel,” “Children, Go Where I Send Thee!,” “Hanerot Halalu,” “Chanuka, oy Chanuka,” and “Christmas is Coming” (“…and the geese are getting fat”). The delights and satisfactions of the season—get-togethers with family and friends, good eating, TOYS for “tiny tots with their eyes all aglow,” burning candles to drive away the dark, the mystery of Santa dropping by in his sleigh in the middle of the night, that perennial yearning for snow before December 25th, and (lest we forget) giving to those less fortunate—are all here.
And of course there are several reminders that for Christians, “Jesus is the reason…” The heavenly babe’s birth is celebrated in songs as diverse as “African Noel” (based on a folk song from Kenya), Englishman John Rutter’s “Jesus Child,” and the cumulative African-American classic “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” (wait ‘til you see Syl King’s choreography and hear accompanist Brooks Milgate’s dazzling piano pyrotechnics on that one!).
The concerts are on Saturday, December 10th at 7:30pm at the St. Joachim Chapel of St. Anne/St. Patrick Parish in Fiskdale (Sturbridge), MA (junction of routes 20 and 148); and on Sunday, December 11th at 3pm at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Woodstock, CT (24 Child Hill Road). There’s plenty of parking and easy handicap access at both venues. Santa hats will be passed for your freewill offering. And, once again, after a long hiatus, yummy refreshments will be served after the music! Truly, there’s something for everyone here. So come prepared to laugh and sing and eat and drink—and liten up a bit!