The River Singers perform in Grafton

Thursday December 6, 2012

GRAFTON -- The River Singers Community Choir led by Mary Cay Brass will hold its annual December concerts on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and, Sunday at 4 p.m., at The White Church.

The River Singers, a 95-voice, multi-generational choir performs songs of joy, health, love and peace to celebrate winter traditions and the turning of the year with a mix of music from many cultural and musical traditions.

This year’s concerts will open with the Afro-Cuban welcoming song and dance, "Yen Yere Guma," to the drumming of Julian Gerstin. The December concerts always include songs to celebrate the holiday traditions from various cultures. "Arise and Hail the Glorious Star" comes from the English 18th century West Gallery tradition -- the precursor to the New England shape note tradition. And from the shape note tradition comes "Song of the Angels at Nativity," set to the text "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks."

Two Israeli folk songs will be offered as a tribute to Hanukkah -- "Bakesh Shalom (Seek Peace)" and "Hava Netse (Let’s Dance)" with clarinetist Walter Slowinski.

These past couple of years, the River Singers have had the great good fortune to have several singers singers from Africa in the choir. Judith Karangi of Tanzania, a composer, singer and recording artist, will lead her own composition, "Dereva Wetu," accompanied by Brass on keyboards, Donald Saaf on guitar, Bill Ballard on sax and Gerstin and Tom Goldschmid on drums.

Having worked in the Balkans over the years, Brass has a particular love of the folk music of that region and always includes a selection of harmonies. Two Macedonian songs are on the program for this concert -- accompanied by Slowinski on clarinet, Saaf on guitar, Brass on accordion and Gerstin on percussion.

Guest singer, conductor, composer, John Harrison, of the Montpelier Gospel Choir, taught the choir three gospel songs. Soloists Will Danforth and Suzanne Manukka will lead two of the songs, "All Night" and "He Said." The third song, "Many Waters," is a Harrison composition written as a tribute to all the Vermonters who have experienced floods.

This year’s concert will benefit the scholarship fund for next summer’s Village Harmony trip to Macedonia and also the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures Program at SIT. Suggested donation is $14, $10 for seniors and students. For information, contact Mary Cay at 802-490-4094 or


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