TRAC presents A Christmas Choral Sampler Nov. 17

On Nov. 17, the University of West Alabama Concert Choir and Singers, in collaboration with the Two Rivers Arts Council (TRAC), will present A Christmas Choral Sampler at 6 p.m. at the Demopolis High School Auditorium. This is the first of three UWA choral concerts this semester.

The community is invited to come enjoy a preview of The University of West Alabama’s upcoming Dec. 3 performance of Handel’s Messiah, along with selections from holiday classics like The Boar’s Head Carol, of the Father’s Love Begotten, and the Twelve Days of Christmas!

“Thanks to the Two Rivers Arts Council, Demopolis is our first stop for Christmas caroling”, said Dr. Christopher Shelt, the group’s conductor. “We want to get the people of Demopolis in the Christmas spirit with excellent Christmas vocal music. The Nov. 17 Demopolis concert is one of two prelude concerts leading up to the Dec. 3 evening performance of Handel’s Messiah on the UWA Campus. The second prelude concert is earlier in the day on Dec. 3, a 2:30 p.m. family concert entitled “UWA Young People Sing at Christmas.”

Alongside UWA faculty and student players, Shelt is bringing in players from the Mississippi Symphony to accompany both the concerts on Saturday, Dec. 3. Two professional soloists, both trained by Shelt, will sing some of the Messiah solos along with UWA student soloists. A Christmas Choral Sampler will feature several preview performances of Messiah choruses along with other Christmas classics.

Within the next five years, Shelt, who is the new Professor of Vocal Music at UWA, wants to build an unparalleled culture of vocal music-making at UWA, the very finest in its history. He wants to see UWA a recognized vocal leader in the State of Alabama, bringing great vocal music of all kinds to the Black Belt Region, building a culture of great singing that impacts children and adults in our extended community. This vision includes producing Music Majors in the Vocal Arts at UWA, who will impact the world. Shelt is a formidable choral and orchestral conductor with three decades of experience. He is vocal pedagogy instructor and active student of vocal science with more than 18 years of university level experience, training studio teachers, music educators, and church musicians in state-of-the-art vocal methodologies. He is also a clinician and consultant in vocal music, doing many seminars in vocal pedagogy, locally and internationally, at conservatories in Peru and Indonesia as well as in other parts of the world.

Come out on Nov. 17 and hear A Christmas Choral Sampler, featuring selections from Handel’s Messiah along with selections from holiday classics like The Boar’s Head Carol, Of the Father’s Love Begotten, and The Twelve Days of Christmas. General admission is $10, while students and TRAC members are free. Tickets can be purchased at the Demopolis Public Library or at the door the night of the performance.

Demopolis Singers invite public to participate in Christmas concert

From left, Rush, Deeya Fitzgerald, and Janelle Baker rehearse in preparation for the Demopolis Singers' upcoming Christmas concert last year. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

From left, Rush, Deeya Fitzgerald, and Janelle Baker rehearse in preparation for the Demopolis Singers’ upcoming Christmas concert last year. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

The Demopolis Singers will hold their first rehearsal for their annual Christmas concert on Monday, Sept. 12 at 6:60 p.m. at the Old School on Main. Anyone wishing to participate is invited to come and join.

Demopolis Singers to present director’s original work

Ed Rush, left, rehearses with fellow musician Deeya Fitzgerald. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Ed Rush, left, rehearses for the Demopolis Singers’ upcoming cantata with saxophonist Deeya Fitzgerald. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Ed Rush believes in the extraordinary.

Retired as Minister of Music for the First Baptist Church, Rush now has more time to devote to composing choral music. His talents will shine for all to see when the Demopolis Singers presents his cantata, “An Extraordinary Christmas,” Thursday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Old School Theater.

Rush got his inspiration for the theme of the cantata from the song “Just Ordinary People,” which he had sung as a solo many times.

“That’s true,” he said. “God has always used ordinary people to do His work.”

As he thought more about God’s use of everyday folks, Rush saw the idea expanded into a major composition. “That could work,” he thought.

After all, he said, “Bethlehem has always been called an insignificant town.” Joseph was a simple carpenter; Mary, a peasant girl, and lowly shepherds witnessed an extraordinary event.

He began in the spring of 2014 to work on the music and sought sources that helped him shape the ideas for the lyrics. In the narration he draws on poems and meditations from other writers as well as using his own words. “I want people to hear the Gospel message.”

From left, Rush, Deeya Fitzgerald, and Janelle Baker rehearse in preparation for the Demopolis Singers' upcoming Christmas concert. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

From left, Rush, Deeya Fitzgerald, and Janelle Baker rehearse in preparation for the Demopolis Singers’ upcoming Christmas cantata. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

As director of the Demopolis Singers, a voluntary post he has held on and off for many years, the biggest challenge is “finding the people who can commit to being here” for rehearsal since most of them are busy people involved in other activities. “This group has worked very hard to put together a program (the audience) not only will enjoy but appreciate.”

The concert will be divided into two parts. The cantata will be featured in the second, along with adaptations of familiar songs and hymns.

The first part will have secular music of the season, with fun pieces, familiar songs and a sing-a-long.

Rush, who plays the trombone, will be joined by several other musicians who will perform other songs of the season. They include Deeya Fitzgerald on saxophone; Janelle Baker, keyboard; Tim Hall, guitar, and Wanda Fuqua, flute.

Demopolis First United Church pastor David Willis will be the narrator for the cantata, and children from his church, directed by Gay Zodun, will join in singing one of the cantata songs.