Candlelight Concert returns to in-person in Port Townsend

A capella singers offer variety of holiday cheer

The a cappella Wild Rose Chorale, caroling in downtown Port Townsend earlier this month, will give the first in-person Candlelight Concert in 20 months this Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church. The members are, from left, director Leslie Lewis, Doug Rodgers, Viola Frank, Al Thompson, Sarah Gustner-Hewitt, Eugenia Frank, Steve Duniho and Lynn Nowak; not pictured is Chuck Helman. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

The a cappella Wild Rose Chorale, caroling in downtown Port Townsend earlier this month, will give the first in-person Candlelight Concert in 20 months this Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church. The members are, from left, director Leslie Lewis, Doug Rodgers, Viola Frank, Al Thompson, Sarah Gustner-Hewitt, Eugenia Frank, Steve Duniho and Lynn Nowak; not pictured is Chuck Helman. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — For the first time in 20 months, an ensemble of singers and an in-person audience will meet for a Candlelight Concert this Thursday.

The performance starring the a cappella Wild Rose Chorale will be free to the public at Trinity United Methodist Church, 609 Taylor St. Uptown, where the capacity is just 50 fully vaccinated guests.

Doors of the newly remodeled, 150-year-old church will open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. concert Thursday, and patrons are encouraged to come early with their proof of vaccination in hand.

The concert, to run a little more than an hour, will be simulcast on KPTZ-FM 91.9 and livestreamed on the church’s website, www.trinityumcpt.org.

“We’re the first live ones,” Wild Rose director Leslie Lewis said, referring to the Candlelight Concerts being virtual since the start of the pandemic.

As is traditional, the concert will raise money for a local cause. Half the proceeds will go to the Wild Rose Chorale scholarship fund, which makes awards to high school and college students pursuing choral music in their post-secondary education. So while admission is free, a $10 donation is suggested for in-person and online listeners.

The nine-voice chorale, including two tenors, two basses, three sopranos and two altos, offers its own blend of holiday cheer.

Of the 15 or 16 songs on the set list, Lewis noted, the traditional carols include “Joy to the World” and “Away in a Manger.”

Then “Wild Rose likes to spice things up, so we are including the favorite ‘White Winter Hymnal,’ complete with body percussion, and ‘Hanukkah Scherzo’ that rips along at a lively clip,” she said.

As admirers of the famed a cappella group Pentatonix, the singers also plan to offer that ensemble’s arrangements of “Light in the Hallway” and “Mary, Did You Know?” plus lesser-known songs such as “Gaudete” and “Welsh Lullaby.”

“It’s been so great singing again,” Lewis said.

The Wild Rose Chorale, which will mark its 30th anniversary next spring, went silent in 2020. They tried gathering via Zoom. That made them decide to wait till they could meet in person, Lewis said.

The choir’s first get-togethers were masked and outdoors, and, yes, the masks were weird.

“But we got used to them, strangely,” Lewis said.

This past summer, the group booked the December Candlelight Concert, not knowing whether it would be in person or virtual.

It turned out to be both. And the singers, masks and all, went caroling — and polishing their Candlelight material — in downtown Port Townsend on Dec. 4.

“We have dearly missed the kind of music that we love,” especially those tight harmonies, said alto Lynn Nowak, who’s been with the Wild Rose Chorale for close to three decades.

Also singing this season: 17-year-old twins Viola and Eugenia Frank of Chimacum. They’re seniors in the high school’s alternative Pi program and interns with the chorale, which also includes soprano Sarah Gustner-Hewitt, tenors Chuck Helman and Steve Duniho, and basses Doug Rodgers and Al Thompson.

“I didn’t realize till we got back together how much I had missed making live music,” Lewis said.

“It puts a thrill through your whole body. There’s nothing like it.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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