GUILFORD -- Two of the region’s annual early holiday "treats" are presented by Friends of Music at Guilford, now in its 47th concert season.
The Community Messiah Sing (the 42nd annual) is on Saturday, Dec. 1, beginning at 1 p.m. And the Christmas at Christ Church program, now observing its 40th anniversary, follows soon after on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, at 8 p.m.
Come sing your heart out
Imagine the sanctuary of Brattleboro’s Centre Congregational Church filled to the brim, upstairs and down, with 200 to 300 singers clutching a copy of the vocal score for Handel’s "Messiah." Tucked in some of the back pews, or in a central balcony up over the entry foyer, are music lovers who have come just to listen to this enormous choir.
Clark Anderson takes the podium to run the assembled choristers through a few demanding passages before signaling to organist Christian Huebner that it’s time to begin the Sing. The entire Christmas section, plus a few popular later numbers, are then "run" with soloists Aurora Phillips, soprano, Jessica Callahan Gelter, alto, Michael Duffin, tenor, and Larrimore Crockett, bass.
Since 2007, the Sing has been a benefit for the homeless at holiday time. All door donations, a total of more than $8,500 to date, are divided between the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center and the Morningside Shelter agencies. Event sponsors donate services or cash to cover most of the Sing’s expenses. Sponsors include Centre Church, Richmond Auto Repair, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Turn It Up! and the Brattleboro Reformer, as well as 47th season sponsor Entergy Vermont Yankee.
The Drop In Center’s van outside Centre Church that afternoon will collect cash from downtown shoppers, as well as canned goods, winter outerwear and blankets, and unwrapped, new toys from the public and Sing participants.
and a favorite story
Less than a week later, the more austere setting of a country church, now open only for special events, welcomes 100 or more folks on each of two evenings of the Christmas at Christ Church celebration. This historic building is located at the corner of Route 5 south and Melendy Hill Road, in the Algiers village of Guilford, just over a mile from Exit 1 off I-91. As always, donations collected at the door are shared with the church preservation committee to cover the cost of heat and maintenance.
This season’s theme, "Christmas Cometh Caroling," is the title of one of Alfred Burt’s 15 carols, all written in the 1940s and ‘50s. A brass quartet of BUHS students performs three specially arranged Burt carols as prelude, interlude and postlude to 10 more performed by the Guilford Chamber Singers. Most of the 19-voice group, conducted by Tom Baehr, sing with other choirs and choruses in the area.
As he has done almost every season, Don McLean, a Friends of Music founder and administrator for the first 40 years, gives a reading of a classic holiday story. Reprising the one featured in year one, he offers his popular rendition of Dylan Thomas’ "A Child’s Christmas in Wales."
A short Carol Sing with everyone ends the hour-long gathering, and the church’s bell is rung to welcome in the holiday season as everyone heads out into the night.