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Northern Choral going for the ‘big’ sound at 58th annual concert

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Carl A. Bingle, the self-described “old man of Northern Choral Society,” sought a big sound for this year’s holiday concert.

“Our charter for Northern Choral, our mission statement, is that we are trying to keep the big sacred works alive,” he said.

He gets some help this year from Mozart and Beethoven.

One of the concert’s two big works for choir, organ and orchestra is Mozart’s “Vesperae Solennes de Confessore.”

“This is a young Mozart piece,” Mr. Bingle said. “It’s full of power, might and majesty.”

The approximately 70-member Northern Choral Society along with orchestra will present its 58th annual Christmas concert Saturday and next Sunday at Asbury United Methodist Church, 327 Franklin St. Returning after a three-year hiatus is the children’s choir. The River Ringers Community Handbell Choir will also perform.

Sara D. Gleason, vocal and general music teacher at Copenhagen Central School, returns for the third year as Northern Choral director.

Mr. Bingle, longtime organist for Northern Choral Society and First Presbyterian Church, said Mozart (1756-91) was 24 when he composed “Vesperae Solennes de Confessore” (“Solemn Vespers for the Feast of a Confessor”).

Even though the piece is not as familiar as some of Mozart’s other choral pieces, including the unfinished Requiem that would be his final work, Mr. Bingle said it is still momentous.

“It’s just a beautiful work to sing in the afternoon or evening, and that’s why it’s called a vespers,” he said. “Even though it’s a young Mozart work, it’s a major work.”

The selection will be sung in Latin, with a translation printed in the program. It consists of five Psalms and a Magnificat, which is a hymn of praise to Mary.

“They have to be sung big and powerful,” Mr. Bingle said. “They are telling the story of what the world will be like when the Messiah is here. It’s Old Testament, but it is previewing the birth of Christ and Jesus on Earth.”

Mr. Bingle, Mrs. Gleason and Northern Choral Society president David Elmer gathered at First Presbyterian Church in mid-November to go over the concert’s particulars. Mrs. Gleason was looking forward to moving rehearsals from First Presbyterian to Asbury United Methodist, starting last Sunday.

“We’re still in the learning stages, but now that we’re moving over to Asbury, I hope to get more of the whole approach so we can sing each movement and get more of the interpretation,” she said.

“It’s got a lot of power in the first four movements,” Mr. Bingle said. “But every one of them has a softer section. They all have a bit of contrast in them.”

The other major work Northern Choral is preparing is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, 4th movement, with the famous chorale finale of universal brotherhood.

Both works will feature the same soloists featured in Northern Choral Society’s 2010 “Messiah” concert: Megan (Taylor) Weikleenget, a soprano from Buffalo; mezzo-soprano Evgeniya A. Krachmarova-Sotirov of Watertown; baritone Matthew Royal, a native of Tappan, Rockland County, and tenor Robert Soricelli of Potsdam.

The choir will also perform “One Gift,” by Glen Rudolph and “The Shepherds’ Farewell” from the oratorio “The Childhood of Christ” by Hector Berlioz.

The 13-member Northern Choral Society children’s choir, directed by Corinne Dartnell, vocal music teacher at General Brown Junior/Senior High School, will present four pieces: “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” “Advent Carol,” “Calypso Lullaby” and John Rutter’s “Star Carol,” to be performed with the adult choir and orchestra.

Mrs. Gleason, a former director of the children’s choir, said it’s important to keep it going.

“It’s something we need in our community,” she said. “It’s the only one in our community, aside from the school choirs. Especially for the home-schooled kids, this is it for them.”

“It’s also an excellent feeder for our adult choir,” said Mr. Elmer.

The River Ringers Community Handbell Choir is under the direction of Jennifer M. Whitenack. Mr. Bingle said Northern Choral Society’s board of directors and members of the public requested the return of the River Ringers, which was founded in 2006. It performed with Northern Choral last year in its first collaboration with the group.

The River Ringers will perform three pieces: “He is Born,” “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming” and “Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.”

The program will also include three sing-along carols.

Mrs. Gleason also directs the concert’s 18-piece orchestra.

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