Saturday, December 01, 2007

Concert Review

North East Texas Choral Society’s Christmas concert offers glad tidings of comfort and joy
By TERRY MATHEWS News-Telegram Arts Editor

Dec 2, 2007 - If last night’s sound check is a true indication of what is to come, we’re in for a great weekend of music.

Linda Riddle (left) and Ellen Atkins got into the spirit Friday night at sound check. “A Victorian Christmas,” presented by the Northeast Texas Choral Society opens Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.

Director of Music Carol Allen has chosen an ambitious program that runs the gamut of holiday favorites, from “Silent Night” to Mel Tormè’s “The Christmas Song.”

This year marks the group’s 10th anniversary and they are going all out to make it a performance to remember.

“We wanted to do something special this year,” Allen said in an interview earlier this fall. “We want to bring in the holiday season with gladness.”

The stage is all gussied up and the singers will be decked out in full Victorian attire. As with all their shows, they’ve brought in additional musicians for accompaniment.

They’ve added a real “sugar plum fairy” and they’ve brought in some very special guests that are guaranteed to make everyone say, “I didn’t know they could sing.”

Mary Groner and Suzy Hamilton decorated the lobby with all the traditional holiday trimmings and it really sets the tone for the holiday experience.

“The minute you walk through the doors, the show begins,” said Allen. “We've set the mood with Christmas greenery, a decorated tree, poinsettias, mulled cider, Christmas cookies and ushers in full Victorian costumes.”

The chorus opens with a mix of Olde English carols and a Norwegian song, “O Yule Full of Gladness.”

The program includes favorites like “Silent Night,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Silver Bells.”

They’ve included a children’s sing-a-long, with words to the songs included in the handsome printed program.

“We’re so proud of the printed program,” Allen said. “We’ve dreamed of something like this for years. It really is a keepsake.”

Sulphur Springs native Susan Foster Fox, a former choral society singer who now lives in the Dallas area, is performing with the group. Her solo on “O, Holy Night” provides one of the show’s best moments. It’s hard to believe so much sound and so much power comes from such a small package, but this girl delivers some very special magic.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, Allen and her singers pull something new out of their bonnets and stove pipe hats.

The arrangement of “Jingle Bells” evokes Barbra Streisand, but let me assure you that no one is going to rain on the choral society’s parade.

The family of Mickey and Barbara McKenzie have underwritten the costs for the society’s two performances.

“We’re so fortunate to enjoy such great support,” Allen said. “We’re so grateful to the McKenzies for believing in us.”

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