Cuesta Master Chorale director Thomas Davies has fond memories of his family’s favorite holiday album — a collection of Christmas carols and hymns arranged by Robert Shaw.
“When December hit, that album came out,” said Davies, who can still picture the album cover, depicting carolers in colorful hats standing under a street lamp. “I just fell in love with choral singing from those albums.”
Three concerts this weekend celebrate the holiday season with memorable music and plenty of audience participation.
The Cuesta Master Chorale and Orchestra kicks off the festivities Saturday with “Voices of the Season” at the Cohan Center. Then, on Sunday, community members can attend holiday concerts in Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo.
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According to Davies, Cuesta Master Chorale’s Saturday spiritual set list starts with an excerpt from Johann Sebastian Bach’s beloved “Christmas Oratorio.”
Other selections include Felix Mendelssohn’s “Psalm 42” and Alessandro Scarlatti’s “Cantata Pastorale,” the latter featuring visiting soprano soloist Sarah Viola.
Mezzo-soprano Jacalyn Kreitzer, a Cal Poly lecturer, serves as the soloist for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ rarely performed “Magnificat.”
“It’s gorgeous. It’s a wonderful, lovely piece of music,” Davies said of “Magnificat,” written for women’s voices and orchestra.
The concert ends with classic carols from “The Many Moods of Christmas” by Robert Shaw and Robert Russell Bennett. They include “The First Noel,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Deck the Halls.”
“Hopefully, it will be something everyone can enjoy and latch on to,” said Davies, director of choral activities and vocal studies at Cal Poly.
Join in the music
More holiday favorites will fill the air Sunday when the Cohan Center hosts the Forbes Pipe Organ Holiday Concert & Sing-Along.
Now in its fourth year, the event features the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble, the Central Coast Children’s Choir and Cal Poly organist Paul Woodring. He’ll lead the audience in a massive sing-along.
“A holiday sing-along concert, that’s for everyone, including the kids,” said Ron Regier, PAC managing director. “It’s really a chance for the entire family to get exposed to the pipe organ and celebrate the season and have some fun.”
Regier said the idea for a holiday sing-along came from Bert and Candee Forbes, who donated the pipe organ to the San Luis Obispo Performing Arts Center.
“It was all really good timing,” he said. “Over the years, there’s kind of been an ebb and flow of holiday concerts at the Performing Arts Center.”
It’s proven to be a huge crowd pleaser, he said.
This year’s program features such holiday favorites as “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Carol of the Bells” and “Joy to the World,” Vocal Arts Ensemble director Gary Lamprecht said, adding that selections are “designed to be pretty user-friendly.”
His group will perform Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Hallelujah Chorus” and Frank Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” as well as the Austrian carol “Still, Still, Still” and the American classic “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Adult and children’s choirs come together for a cheerful Caribbean version of “Kyrie Eleison” by Glenn McClure and “All Is Well” by Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick.
All proceeds from Sunday’s concert benefit the two choirs and the Performing Arts Center’s Youth Outreach program.
Songs and Santa
Also on Sunday, the Arroyo Grande Rotary Club sponsors the Community Christmas&Holiday Sing- Along at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts.
The concert’s creators wanted a holiday event “that included the community and served the community,” said organizer Judith Dunlore, director of Studio Sing Sing Sing in Arroyo Grande.
Three years later, the concert features some of the finest performers the area has to offer, she said. Participating groups include Studio Sing Sing Sing’s Village Carolers, the Estero Brass Quintet, the Dellos Performing Arts Center, the Nipomo High School Band and choirs from First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande and First Presbyterian Church of Grover Beach.
Santa Claus will also make an appearance, Dunlore said, leading into the concert’s sing-along section.
When it comes to coaxing audience members to burst into song, Dunlore said, “I’m pretty persuasive.” She’ll have singers stationed throughout the venue to encourage participation.
After warming up with “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells,” she leads her impromptu choir through a medley of holiday favorites. One of the most popular songs is “The 12 Days of Christmas,” said Dunlore, who divides the crowd into sections and has them sing different parts.
“That’s kind of our teehee giggle moment,” she said.
Sunday’s Clark Center concert concludes with an “O Holy Night” rhapsody, featuring classical pianist Rudolf Budginas backed by the combined choirs. He made his debut at last year’s holiday sing-along, Dunlore said, playing, appropriately enough, “Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer.”
Concert proceeds go to arts and music programs around South County.
“It’s a fun way to get in the (holiday) spirit,” Dunlore said.
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907.