RED BANK: FOUR BIG CHRISTMAS EVENTS

vienna_boys_choirThe Vienna Boys Choir, above, returns to the stage of the Count Basie Theatre on December 12, and the New Jersey Chamber Singers, below make their annual Yuletide stop at Red Bank’s United Methodist Church Friday.

NJCSClassic Christmas carols, cantatas and the most cherished of Yuletide ballets fill up the calendar this time of year. Read on for details on traditional holiday offerings from the Tower Hill Choir, the Company of Dance Arts, and a musical organization that traces its ancestry back more than 600 years.

 

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RED BANK: MCC ANNOUNCES SCHOLARSHIPS

For more than 50 years, the Red Bank-based Monmouth Civic Chorus has brought a selection of the world’s finest choral music classics to area audiences, at venues that include the Count Basie Theatre and Tower Hill Church. Recently the Red Bank-based arts organization announced the awarding of a total of $,3000 to the winners of its 2015 scholarships for vocally talented New Jersey high school seniors.

First Place went to Nicole Toms, Point Pleasant Borough, who was awarded $2,000. Second Place was shared by Mary Roberts of Milford and Selena Siri of Parlin, who were each awarded $500. This year’s scholarship judges were Monmouth Civic Chorus Artistic Director Dr. Ryan Brandau; Director Emeritus William R. Shoppell, Jr.; Marina Alexander, Musical Director of the Arcadian Chorale; and Reid Masters, Artistic Director of the New Jersey Chamber Singers. The accompanists were Neil F. Brown, Director of Music Ministries, First Presbyterian Church at Red Bank; and Allan Robinson, Organist and Choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal Church, Red Bank.

Since 1970, the Monmouth Civic Chorus has awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships to New Jersey high school seniors of outstanding vocal promise. To learn more or to donate to the scholarship fund, visit the MCC website — and read on for news about this year’s upcoming fundraiser gala event for the annual scholarships.

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AROUND THE GREEN: VOICES HEARD ON HIGH

MCC ChrisMillerAbove: Dr. Ryan Brandau leads the assembled voices of the Monmouth Civic Chorus in the annual Christmas program at the Count Basie Theatre…while the New Jersey Chamber Singers (right) visit Red Bank’s United Methodist Church in one of several choral concerts around the greater Green this weekend. (Top photo by Chris Miller)

NJCSIt’s been said that it just wouldn’t be the Yuletide season in Red Bank without the yearly performance of Handel’s Messiah by the assembled voices of The Monmouth Civic Chorus — and while true, it’s hardly the only occasion for Hallelujahs from fans of choral music this weekend. The fact is, Saturday and Sunday offer not one but four separate choir concerts in and around Red Bank, each a labor of love from the area’s most dedicated vocal artists.

It begins on Saturday evening, December 6, with the annual showcase of Holiday Favorites by Shrewsbury Chorale, in the beautiful setting of St. George’s by the River Episcopal Church (7 Lincoln Avenue in Rumson). It’s a selection of seasonal signatures from the venerable vocal organization, now in its 58th season and directed by Maestro Anthony La Gruth. Tickets, available at the door, are priced at $25 for adults; $20 for seniors and students; $10 for children under 12. For more information, or to reserve discounted advance tickets, call (732)513-8413 — and read on for more.

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WEEKEND: VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS ABOUND

Danu.ColmHenryjpegAbove: Celtic combo Danú brings “An Nollag in Éirinnis” to Santa Basie’s workshop on Friday…while below, young adult novelist Julie Milillo comes home to Middletown for a Saturday discussion of Immortal Sin.

Friday, December 13:

JulieMililloRED BANK: It’s opening weekend for the annual holiday-season family show at Two River Theater, a newly revamped production of the original musical A Wind in the Willows Christmas that mixes Kenneth Grahame’s classic animal characters with “a lot more holiday spirit,” and redesigned costumes that highlight “ears and tails and fur.” Tonight’s 7 p.m. opening is preceded by a special noontime Scout Day preview that allows scout troops a behind-the-scenes look at the production, with games, snacks, photo ops and more. Performances continue at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday; take it here for tickets (adults $20 – $55; ages 18 and under $25) — and keep it tuned to redbankgreen for more on Mr. Toad and friends.

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JOYOUS, MAJESTIC INDOOR VOICES, PLEASE

A 2010 performance of the Monmouth Civic Chorus, conducted by Mark Shapiro, at the First Presbyterian Church, Red Bank.

It’s a local holiday tradition of which it’s been said, “It won’t be Christmas without it” — and when the voices and instruments of The Monmouth Civic Chorus assemble in Red Bank on the afternoon of December 18, they’ll return once more to a classic oratorio that formed the heart of the very first MCC concert more than 50 years ago, a work that’s become synonymous with the expression of joy and celebration.

When the familiar notes of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s The Messiah soar toward the grand ceiling of the Count Basie Theatre, however, they’ll carry with them an inaudible but distinctly bittersweet undertone — a realization that the 2011 performance of this seasonal signifier will be the final one under the baton of longtime artistic director Mark Shapiro.

The veteran conductor, who announced his departure effective next spring, has in his 20-plus years at the podium helped the borough-based MCC evolve from a dedicated suburban troupe of “weekend warriors” to an acclaimed and confident force that’s appeared at Carnegie Hall and St. Peter’s Basilica, hosted some top-notch guest soloists — and challenged audiences and vocalists alike with new, unfamiliar, even experimental programming that would be the envy of many big-city chorales.

For the Basie concert, of course, it’s all about the comfort and joy of some favorite holiday choral music — and this coming Saturday and Sunday, lovers of harmonious human voices in all their intricacy and splendor can rejoice in the fact that no less than THREE marvelous organizations will be making some beautiful sounds around the greater Green.

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