PORT TOWNSEND — When contemporary British composer John Rutter set out to write his “Magnificat,” he wanted something buoyant and full of light.
The Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County hopes to relay that joy when the singers present Rutter’s work, along with other songs of the season, in a pair of upcoming holiday concerts.
Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 1111 Franklin St. in Port Townsend, and 3 p.m. Saturday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 45 Redeemer Way in Chimacum.
Tickets at the door are a suggested $15. Masks are encouraged in both venues.
After composing his “Requiem,” which he called contemplative, autumnal and even somber, Rutter said he wanted to write something festive and completely different.
“’Magnificat’ is a text that expresses joy,” he said in an interview. “Johann Sebastian Bach did it to absolute perfection in the 1720s,” so Rutter questioned whether he dared to write his own at all.
He ultimately decided he didn’t have to be in competition with Bach since Bach was long gone. Rutter’s version debuted in 1990.
“’Magnificat’ is a story of Mary’s self-discovery, wonder and joy as she prepares to become the mother of Christ,” explained Sarah Moran, fall director of the Community Chorus.
She said Rutter’s “Magnificat” draws on the long tradition of classic oratorios for its thematic material and musical style.
“I have enjoyed the journey of learning the ‘Magnificat,’” Moran said. “It is a splendid piece of music and I know it will be loved by many. It runs the gamut from fanfares of joy to deep, spiritual peace. An overall sense of wonder pervades the music.
“It was quite difficult to learn and required intense rehearsal. These performances are indeed an achievement for our group.”
On his website, Rutter said he thought it “rather nice for a northerner to write a tribute to the sunny south.” In thinking about the uplifting, liturgical text, he imagined Catholic countries such as Spain, Mexico and Puerto Rico. He wanted to celebrate light and happiness.
“I wanted an outdoor ‘Magnificat’ — one where the sun would shine from beginning to end,” Rutter said.
Moran thanked soprano soloist Leslie Lewis for sharing her voice on this program.
In turn, Lewis said she is thrilled and honored to sing the solos in the “Magnificat.”
She is a choral singer and director who has been making music in Port Townsend for 30 years. Lewis currently teaches piano and directs the Wild Rose Chorale and is past director of the PT Youth Chorus, Community Chorus and Trillium, a Women’s Choir.
She also has taught choir in local public and private schools.
“I’m so grateful to Sarah for inviting me to sing the solos and for trusting me with this beautiful music,” Lewis said.
Also for “Magnificat,” guest organist Noah Michael Smith will accompany the singers on the Presbyterian church’s 1889 Whalley and Genung pipe organ at the Friday performance and on grand piano at the Saturday concert at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.
Smith is a composer, visual artist and performer based in Port Angeles.
In addition, singers are to present the world premiere of a piece composed by Smith especially for the chorus.
“Noah came to me and asked if we would like something original for the program and I immediately said yes,” Moran said. “It’s not every day someone offers to write a new piece just for your group. It’s very exciting.”
Beyond “Magnificat” and Smith’s new work, the singers will present more holiday fare.
Other works on the program include arrangements of familiar tunes such as “Home for the Holidays,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Dona Nobis Pacem” and some lightheartedness in the form of a Grinchy choral medley and “Christmas Goes Classical.”
Accompanying in the second half will be Liz Hopkins, the choir’s main accompanist.
Chorus president Linda Atkins expressed how much she values her contributions.
“She not only helps us learn the music, she performs beautifully,” Atkins said.
Moran, too, appreciates Hopkins.
“Liz is always a pleasure to work with; her talent and good humor make rehearsal a treat.”
Moran and Atkins also credited Jonathan Stafford, who gave enthusiastic support in rehearsals of “Magnificat” and the other holiday music.
“Jon is a blessedly easygoing and flexible partner in preparing this project,” Moran said.
Atkins added that he will be directing the chorus in the spring.
“The Community Chorus is not just a group of people who sing together,” Moran said. “It is a family who loves to experience the joy of making music. The people are all dedicated to making the most uplifting, charming and sometimes even hilarious music come to life.”
For more information, visit ptchorus.org, call 360-643-3345 or visit the chorus’ Facebook page.