Kirit Bhansali, Kathryn Neal and Doug McMinds are among the singers readying for two weekend concerts.

Kirit Bhansali, Kathryn Neal and Doug McMinds are among the singers readying for two weekend concerts.

‘Snowy evening’ of holiday music tonight, Sunday

PORT TOWNSEND — Borrowing from the title of a Robert Frost poem, the Community Chorus of Port Townsend & East Jefferson County will present “On a Snowy Evening,” its winter program of holiday and seasonal music, in two concerts this weekend.

Performances will be at 7 tonight at First Presbyterian Church, 1111 Franklin St., in Port Townsend and 3 p.m. Sunday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 45 Redeemer Way, Chimacum.

Community Chorus concert tickets are $15 and are available at ptchorus.org, at Crossroads Music in Port Townsend, 360-385-1471, or by suggested donation at the door.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” set to music by Randall Thompson, was one of guest director Jonathan Stafford’s favorite pieces in college.

“This arrangement of one of America’s best poets’ most popular poems touches my soul,” said Stafford, who has served as chorus guest director for the past two winter seasons and is now stepping up to the baton.

Stafford and new assistant guest director Sarah Moran plan a breadth of repertoire, from Joseph Haydn’s “Little Organ Mass” to a holiday take on jazz musician Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”

Stafford directs non-traditional settings of Christmas carols such as “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” which includes a saxophone solo by Al Thompson, and a medley of favorites including “The First Noel” and “Good Christian Men Rejoice.”

Also in his line-up are some Christmas melodies dating back to 1582 that are tucked into a Swedish collection called “Gaudete.”

Stafford said he hopes that someday, these songs could share the spotlight with time-honored carols such as “Silent Night” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Along with a couple of other numbers, Moran handles the larger work on the program, Haydn’s “Little Organ Mass.” Her background as a choral singer, soprano soloist and director is primarily in the classical to romantic repertoire.

“This piece by Haydn is such a beautiful setting within the classical genre and wasn’t too lengthy to be performed as part of a larger concert,” she said.

She said that the extensive Latin text was a challenge for many of the singers, but with considerable practice, the chorus has been able to accomplish it.

“I appreciate the camaraderie and dedication that each and every member has in producing the best product that can be created,” Moran said.

She said she also appreciates Stafford as a professional, yet easy-going colleague in preparing this program. And the feeling is mutual. Stafford said working with Moran is a real treat.

“Her vocal pedagogy is marvelous and her ideas and suggestions are well-received by the chorus.”

Moran said she is thankful, too, for the talents of pianist Theresa Chedoen, who has been handed some difficult piano accompaniments.

Chorus board president Linda Atkins indicated how happy she is that the chorus can help foster and grow young directors such as Stafford and Moran. “We’re lucky to have them.”

As to the singers themselves, Stafford said, “They’ve put in a lot of hard work in bonus rehearsals, voice lessons and personal study, getting the notes and harmonies right. Their effort has inspired me to really bring my A-game as a conductor.”

Now as concert time approaches, he said he, Moran and the choir are all ready to get out there and have fun. “Let’s make our hearts soar!”

For information, call 360-385-1402 or visit pt chorus.org.

Guest director Jon Stafford rehearses his singers in preparation for “On a Snowy Evening,” a program of seasonal music.

Guest director Jon Stafford rehearses his singers in preparation for “On a Snowy Evening,” a program of seasonal music.

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