`GUILFORD -- Friends of Music’s 41st annual Christmas at Christ Church program is set for Friday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. Christ Church is at the corner of Route 5 south and Melendy Hill Road in the Algiers Village of Guilford.
"Brightest & Best: Music to Welcome the Holy Child" is the theme for the program. Since mid-September, Tom Baehr has been conducting rehearsals with 16 Guilford Chamber Singers.
Singers include sopranos Maisie Crowther, Christina Gibbons, Jody Graves and Sharry J. Manning; altos Nancy Barber, Jenny Holan, Beth McKinney and Joy Wallens-Penford; tenors Nancy Anderson, Jeanne Austin, Paul Cooper and Peter Tracy; and basses Peter Abell, Orion Barber, Peter Nadolny and Ijod Schroeder.
The program introit is "A Christmas Round" declaring the holy birth in Latin. The repertoire also includes a version of the title tune "Brightest and Best" from Jean Ritchie’s family songbook, as arranged by Brattleboro’s Peter Amidon; traditional English and German holiday gems set anew by modern composer-arrangers include "There Is No Rose of Such Virtue," (arr. Stephen Caracciolo); "Coventry Carol" (arr. Jay Rouse); and "Still, Still, Still" (arr. Luc Jakobs); "As on the Night" by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625); "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" by Melchior Vulpius (1615); a recent setting of the "Jesu Parvule" text by Tony Stoneburner and Tim Blickhan; and two 14th century texts set to music by Baehr -- "Childing of a Maiden Bright" and "On the Birthday of the Lord."
Of special note is the inclusion of "In a Far Judean City," by Abbie Burt Betinis, the grand-niece of last season’s featured holiday composer Alfred Burt, who died in 1954; Abbie, born in 1980, has taken up the Burt Family tradition of penning a new carol each season. The program finale is a lively Trinidadian carol, "The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy."
For his seasonal reading on the Christ Church program, Guilford’s Don McLean will interpret his mother’s story, "C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S Spells Mother." This reading continues the tribute to Jean Stewart McLean on the 50th anniversary of her death, which began with the November publication of "Sparks: The Collected Writing of Jean Stewart McLean."
Guilford Chamber Players, led by Amy Cann, will offer instrumental interludes to augment the choral selections and story. A handful of traditional carols sung by everyone will bring the program to its close.
The Friends of Music holiday boutique is stocked with 2014 Art Calendars featuring paintings and prints of Guilford and nearby locales that have appeared on recent program books and posters, as well as several card series, assorted CDs and tote bags and sweatshirts. Signed copies of "Sparks: The Collected Writing of Jean Stewart McLean" will also be available. Sales of these items help support Friends of Music’s programs.
Door donations for Christmas at Christ Church programs are shared with the church Preservation Fund for maintenance of that historic structure. For more information, contact the Friends of Music office at 802-254-3600 or visit www.fomag.org.