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The first weekend in December has become one of my favorite weekends of the year. On the Friday of this weekend, Ted and I have made it a tradition to attend The Organist’s Christmas presented by the Ann Arbor AGO. Then on the Sunday, I attend the Lessons and Carols service at Adrian College. Some years we also squeeze in Handel’s Messiah which is usually performed this same weekend in Ann Arbor and Toledo.
This year, the program was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor. Over 250 people enjoyed the program. Three organists played a few selections each. The Boy Choir of Ann Arbor sang an anthem and they also sang along with all of the hymns. The organ was front and center flanked by beautiful Christmas trees.
My favorite piece was the Richard Purvis arrangement of Greensleeves as it brought me back to my youth. Back then I was playing clarinet in my 8th grade band and we played an arrangement of Greensleeves. I also enjoyed hearing so many people sang the Christmas hymns!
I decided to go early this year after sitting next to chatty college students in the back couple of rows last year. This year I sat in row 5! I had 45 minutes to wait but it was worth it as the people seated near me were not distracting.
Before the service began the Adrian College Orchestra played several Christmas songs. At the start of the service the choir filed in for the back (while singing). The pipe organ was played along with the hymns and the Hallelujah Chorus. The organ blended well with the orchestra. I am still amazed by the power of the pipe organ. Its music was not drowned out by the orchestra.
Both concerts made for a delightful way to kick off the Christmas season!
How do you kick of the Christmas season?
December means holiday concerts and I love them. I’ve attended 3 concerts this December all of which included the pipe organ. The sound a congregation singing Christmas corals along with the pipe organ fills me with joy.
On December 5, my husband and I went to An Organist’s Christmas presented by the Ann Arbor chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Ann Arbor First Music and Art Series. It was at the First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor. Unlike previous years, the Boy Choir of Ann Arbor was not part of the program. This year it was only organists. Three different organists took the stage: James Kibbie, Kola Owolabi, and Michael Burkhardt.
As you may imagine, Christmas music was played. Dr. Michael Burkhardt played Bach’s chorale prelude Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659). Then we sang the carol Savior of the Nations, Come which is played to the tune Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland. I found this particularly interesting as I wondered how often chorale preludes are played to introduce the hymn they are a prelude on when I started learning Helmut Walcha’s chorale prelude of Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen.
On December 7, I attended the annual Lessons and Carols service at Adrian College. What I love about this event is that is nearly filled to capacity. The orchestra played a pre-service concert consisting of (wait for it) Christmas music. I was a bit distracted by some female college students that thought this was a good time to giggle and wave at a man in the orchestra. I was pleased when they left before the Lessons and Carols began. Next year, I will arrive earlier and sit closer to the front with the “old” people.
The orchestra played most of the music for the service, but the pipe organ was played for the Hymns (Carols) and Handel’s “Hallelujah!” from “Messiah. The service ended with each person’s candle lit while singing “Silent Night”.
The Adrian College pipe organ is the first pipe organ that I ever played!
On December 12, I went to The Ypsilanti’s Pipe Organ Festival’s holiday concert at the First Presbyterian Church in Ypsilanti. This concert consisted of duets for the organ and piano. The piano was played by Gary Powell and the organ by Stephen Schnurr, both have impressive backgrounds. Christmas music was also played at this concert! A couple of the pieces were piano duets. Gary was also entertaining when speaking in between pieces. It was a very enjoyable and delightful concert.
The combination of piano and organ together reminded me of my childhood where this was done at my church most Sundays. I have not visited a church recently where this occurs, but Gary said it is a very common practice in Baptist churches. Perhaps, I should visit a a Baptist church!
Neither musician played from memory. What I noticed was that Stephen, the organist, had a page turner for most of his pieces while Gary, the pianist, turned his own pages on all pieces except for one! Does this mean that turning ones own pages is easier for a pianist than an organist?
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and are able to enjoy some holiday concerts. I also enjoyed the Lights at the Toledo Zoo. (no pipe organ there!)
The Joy of December comes in the form of concerts! December offers ample opportunities to attend holiday concerts and programs. In a stretch of only 10 days, I have attended 6 events. How about you?
Kicking off this joyous spree was the Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo with my husband, Ted. Nearly ever tree and bush within the zoo is adorned with lights. There is also a section of flashing lights that is set to music. A rotation of 4 of 5 holiday songs repeat throughout the night.
The very next night we attended An Organist’s Christmas, a concert presented in conjunction with the Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. The program was hosted by First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor and also featured the Ann Arbor Boy Choir. Three organists played solo pieces as well as accompanying Christmas hymns sung by the choir and the congregation. We had a flat tire when we came out of the program which added some extra excitement to the night!
Our next event was attending Messiah at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, MI. An outstanding performance by the four soloists, the University Musical Society (UMS) Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Much to my delight the pipe organ was included and well played by organist Scott VanOrnum. The music of Messiah brings me great joy! I feel so strongly about this oratorio, that I believe everyone should attend a performance of it at least once. Add it to your someday list!
That same evening, I attended the Lessons and Carols service at Adrian College. Attending this concert has become an annual tradition. According to the Adrian College website, the capacity of the chapel is 1,000. The sanctuary was nearly full. The music was played by the Adrian College Symphony Orchestra and sung by the Adrian College choir. The organ was also played for the hymns and perhaps the Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah). My favorite part of the evening was the two congregational hymns – “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. The joy of hearing and being part of a large number of people singing together is truly amazing. And it’s even better with the pipe organ encouraging us to lift our voices!
The Joy of December Part 2 is coming soon and I will discuss 2 more events.
What programs/concerts have you attended this holiday season?