For the 2013 Newtown Choral Society (NCS) winter concert, Director Mary Andreotta chose the theme of “Home for the Holidays.”
“I wanted to create the feeling of comfort, familiarity, and pride of being home in Newtown for the holidays, for the choir and for our audience,” said Ms Andreotta, who created a program that includes a number of “familiar and accessible music,” as well as two original compositions by local composers.
In keeping with the theme of this year’s concert — being performed December 8 — this year’s audience will also be treated to “Ave Maria” by Dan Coffman of Bethel and “It’s Christmas in Newtown” by Newtown resident Phil Crevier.
Mr Coffman composed “Ave Maria” a year ago. The ideas for the work, he said, had been working their way around his head for a while, but they just were not coalescing into a final form.
“In that sense it was very difficult” to write, he said. On the other hand, once the ideas began pulling together, “I wrote ‘Ave Maria’ in just about two hours, in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon after returning home from church,” he said last weekend.
He is happy with the result.
“It expresses my own, admittedly idiosyncratic, response to this ancient text,” said Mr Coffman.
It was the first original piece he had completed “in a very long time,” he said. He offered its use to a number of choir directors.
“I expected Mary to just respond with a couple of sentences, but she surprised and greatly flattered me by asking for permission to perform the piece in this concert,” he said.
“I felt honored to be trusted with performing Dan’s piece,” said Ms Andreotta, who described the work has having “lush harmonies, and melodies and rhythms that meld perfectly with the text. This is a serious contemporary piece. The group loves singing it.”
It’s a challenging work. It is a mixture, says the composer, of techniques from early polyphony and contemporary harmonies.
“As such it is unusual, and requires a high level of concentration and practice from the singers,” he said.
Mr Coffman will be right there, part of the choral society, when they perform next week. He has had the additional joy of not only having his work picked up for the concert, but he has also been privy to all of the rehearsals of the new work. The choir members have been uniformly kind and supportive, he said.
“Part of the joy of watching a piece come to life is, of course, watching what others make of it,” said Mr Coffman. “I think Mary and the choir are doing a great job, and it has been really rewarding to hear their comments and suggestions.”
‘It’s Christmas In Newtown’
Mr Crevier composed “It’s Christmas in Newtown” specifically for NCS. Ms Andreotta asked him, she said, to compose a piece for the group that would express what it means to be home for the holidays in Newtown.
“Phil has written text and music that captures just that,” she said.
The song includes references to a number of places and things to do that are familiar to anyone living or having spent time in Newtown. Mr Crevier has picked up everything from Ferris Acres Creamery, the infamous Main Street flagpole and Newtown Meeting House to The Newtown Bee, Ram Pasture, and many of the historic school districts and work them into his fun song either with direct names or very good references.
“This piece is joyful and happy. The group loves singing it,” said Ms Andreotta. “Many have found themselves humming it during the week between rehearsals.”
This is the second time Mr Crevier has composed for NCS.
“I did, many years ago, at Mary’s request, when I was accompanist. The request was very specific that time,” he said. The work that year was an arrangement of “Silent Night,” written to be performed a cappella.
“I wanted to just listen,” he said of the earlier work.
This year’s program will also include songs from White Christmas, Charlie Brown and Home Alone along with Gustav Holst’s Christmas Day, and others. The audience will also be encouraged to join NCS for a sing-along of familiar carols.
Newtown Choral Society was formed in 1986. This season it has 20 members with a wide range of musical experience. Members are from Newtown, Southbury, New Milford, Danbury, and Bethel. Among those members of Mr Crevier’s wife Nancy, an alto (and a features writer for The Newtown Bee).
Mr Crevier was the accompanist for NCS several years ago, for several seasons.
“It was a terrific experience, but I had to let it go because of business and other musical obligations,” he said. His only role since leaving the accompanist job, he said, has been to support NCS as an audience members. He is “delighted,” he said, “to play a part this season as a composer.”
NCS will be accompanied on December 8 by Susan Anthony-Klein.
NCS prides itself on welcoming all singers into its fold. The motto of the non-auditioned community choir is “We take our music seriously, but not ourselves.”
Nevertheless, the choir is celebrated for its fun, enjoyable concerts. Programs have included everything from classical to contemporary selections.
“We really enjoy singing together,” said Ms Andreotta.
Newtown Choral Society’s “Home For The Holidays” will be performed Sunday, December 8, at Newtown Meeting House, 31 Main Street. It will begin at 3:30 pm. Tickets are $10, $8 students and seniors, and they will be available at the door.