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Christmas Community Choir Come-togethers

Hi Everyone:
 
Have you ever held a community event with a number of choirs coming together to celebrate Christmas (traditional Christian Christmas) in a large church in your community?
I used to do this when I was younger and I just heard it is still happening. Each choir performed one piece (anthem) and Christmas Carols separated each selection. During these carols the choirs moved about and got into position. Sometimes we had a vocal solo or small ensemble. It was such great fun.
I have also heard of choirs coming together to perform a major work – eg. the Christmas part of The Messiah.
What is your experience with this kind of community event? How did you share the planning/conducting/accompanying?
What rep. ideas do you have or have you used?
The three choirs in my town are interedted in hearing about simlar stories and experiences with the hopes we might try something special this year.
Thanks in advance.
on July 2, 2014 3:37pm
I see that in 1 1/2 months you have had no response so maybe my response, though tardy, will still be useful.  In the community in which my church resides we do something like this right around thanksgiving.  We alternate years with handbells and vocal choirs, and the participants are the choirs from a few local churches.  We directors get together in the spring or summer to select the repertoire, each bringing pieces we'd like to be considered.  We select the repertoire together and then also divide up the conducting and accompanying through mutual conversation.  We take into consideration if one of us is already familiar with a piece, and if so that person might end up conducting or accompanying it by default.  We also take into consideration each individual's strengths.  I am a strong pianist so usually end up at the piano bench for at least one thing, if not more.  When we do vocal choirs we don't do any individual group pieces, but we do have individual group pieces on the years when the handbells play the whole event (I think this speaks to the difference in learning curve between handbells and vocal choirs).  All of the choirs prepare the material separately.  The event is on a Sunday late afternoon; we all convene at the host church that Sunday after services are done, and have a few hours rehearsal followed by finger foods that the participants have brought to share; then we have the event itself (it is kind-of a concert, and kind-of a service).   the host church collects an offering which is given for a local charity.
 
All the best to you in your discussions!
 
Julie Ford
on July 3, 2014 8:24am
Good question. I think these events are great. I have participated in some locally, [on various years] as choir singer, soloist, and conductor.  One was a basic Lessons-and-Carols format, some were community Messiah, and one was a delightful musical  - charming, funny-but-classy, and subtly meaningful - written by a local director,"Christmas in Fairburn"  (we performered it in the century-old Fairburn UMC).  It was not difficult - the choir played themselves, so music was somewhat flexible.  I imagine the writer-director, Dana Lamb, would consider adapting it for your community, and some of the anthem choices could probably be yours.
 
Our planning was similar to what Julie described. Some can be done by email, or Facebook, especially if folks are on vacation.
 
It is nice for choirs to get to sing with an instrumental ensemble. Sometimes that can be funded by donation, early fun(d)-raiser, and/or letting people "donate" a line of text in the program. (Under "He shall feed his flock" , "Donated by Sue Jones Smith, in honor [or memory] of her father, James Jones"}. If you select a date that they are not tied up with a church or concert, they generally appreciate the opportunity and professional exposure. Groups here will often feature them in the "prelude" function, playing such works as Brahms "There Is No Rose in Flower" for strings.. (a personal fave of mine!), and they can play some lines of the Christmas hymns/Carols ... giving the audience the added thrill of singing with instruments.  "Carols for Choirs" has good arrangements with soprano descants.
In today's econopmy, you might well find one or two professional soloists who would sing for a discounted amount, even gratis if they need professional exposure. If funding is short, and you are near a college, you may wish to talk with the vocal/choral professors there, and hold auditions for solo parts. Great experience for the students, and communities usually support this.  It probably will circumvent any "Why did s/he get the solo instead of moi!?" drama from your choir(s). :)
In any case, I would send a kind-but-firm written invitation, with your plan/policy, and how each group is included - no one "featured' , unless you wish to invite a somewhat-renowned guest group from a nearby community.
Britten's "Deo Gracias" from "Ceremony of Carols" is a nice one for near the end.  It is one that works almost as well SATB as SSA.
Christmas is a time for good will, and due to a bit of stress, we often need reminders! :)
Hope all is Merry!
-Lucy
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