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RED BANK, MIDDLETOWN: JOY TO THE EARS

shrews-chorale-christ-episcopal-3169485Neil F. Brown conducts the Shrewsbury Chorale, above, and Ryan Brandau, below, leads the Monmouth Civic Chorus, as the local vocal organizations present their annual Christmas concerts this Sunday.

director-brandau-7046309Blessed as it is with a well-above-average amount of choral voice talent — and numerous, well-established outlets for those voices to be heard — the Greater Red Bank Green is indisputably the area’s epicenter of classic carols and cantatas of Christmas.

And, with the New Jersey Chamber Singers and Tower Hill Choir having had their glorious say this past weekend, two more long-running organizations are on deck to herald the season in their own inimitable way, at a pair of concurrent concert events taking place this Sunday.

Boasting a soundtrack that ranges from centuries-old devotional music to Tin Pan Alley pop and works by modern composers, it’s an afternoon that begins with an appearance by the Shrewsbury Chorale at Middletown’s Christ Episcopal Church, and continues with the annual appearance of the Monmouth Civic Chorus on the famous stage of the Count Basie Theatre.

Now in its diamond anniversary 60th season of presenting choral classics and popular repertoire, the Shrewsbury Chorale enters the Yuletide interlude under the baton of a new full-time conductor — Neil F. Brown, the group’s former accompanist and interim director, who took over officially from his predecessor Anthony LaGruth at the end of 2015 — and an ongoing invitation for interested singers to chime in during the group’s regular rehearsals every Tuesday night (7:45 to 10 p.m.) at Lincroft’s Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse (to schedule an audition, call Joy More at (732) 216-3907 or email [email protected]).

For Sunday’s “Many Moods of Christmas” program in Middletown, director Brown and the chorale will be accompanied by John Balme in a performance of four suites of beloved carols, in arrangements by Robert Shaw and Robert Russell Bennett. Also featured will be a choral medley of “Four Nutcracker Favorites,” as well as selections from Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Gerald Finzi’s modern musical Christmas scene “In Terra Pax.”

Tickets ($25 for adults, $20 for seniors/ students, $10 for children) can be reserved by calling (732)747-1362 or emailing [email protected] — and audience members are invited to join the Chorale for a reception following the performance.

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If ever there was a cross-generational Christmas community tradition in Red Bank, it’s the annual performance of the “Hallelujah Chorus” and other highlights from Handel’s Messiah, as performed each year by the borough-based Monmouth Civic Chorus. When the ensemble now under the direction of Ryan Brandau reconvenes on the Basie stage for a “Joy to the World” program this Sunday, it’ll be inaugurating a 68th season that delivers those requisite welcome hallelujahs — as well as an encore performance of a Christmas Suite that spotlights Brandau’s own arrangements of holiday favorites.

That MCC exclusive proved a hit with the Basie audience last season, and this year’s expanded arrangement will feature selections from Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, along with Brandau’s new arrangements of holiday standards that span the hallowed “O Holy Night,” “Auld Lang Syne” to the Hollywood (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”). Reserve here for premium seating ($45 adult, $40 senior, $35 groups of 10 or more, $10 student) or for regular seating ($30 adult, $27 senior, $25 group, $5 student).

The Monmouth Civic Chorus season continues on February 26, 2017, when Brandau and the MCC visit Red Bank’s First Presbyterian (Tower Hill) Church for a Valentine-season program entitled Love Is in the Air. The season closes on June 2, with a Northern Lights program hosted at St. Mary Catholic Church in Colts Neck. Subscriptions are $75 for all three concerts, a savings of more than 25 percent off full-price individual admissions, and are available here or by calling (732)933-9333.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank business owner happier than to hear "I saw your ad on Red Bank Green!"
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