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How do you proceed if you have seven music groups that you want to feature on a single program? You might do what Meredith College music leaders did on a pleasant late fall evening in Jones Auditorium. You would use the Meredith Sinfonietta as the basis for the program, leaving that large group of instrumentalists on stage more or less intact during all the proceedings. So now you’re ready to bring on no fewer than twenty-one selections by the various ensembles.
The audience was not allowed to sit idly by. Under the heading, “Everybody Sings,” the crowd chimed in on three traditional Christmas songs. It was good to see David Lynch, erstwhile Music Department Head, back on the job. He furnished the pipe organ accompaniment here and throughout the evening.
Once the Handbell Choir had finished its pre-concert turn in the lobby, it was time for conductor Jim Waddelow to start up the Sinfonietta with “The Christmas Waltz,” that captivating seasonal charmer by Jule Styne. These players appeared in several other pieces, some with excellent student participation as arrangers and directors. The group seemed most confident and forceful with Styne’s “Let it Snow! Let it Snow!”
The Meredith Chorus of some twenty voices came on early in the program. Led by James Shaw Smith and supported by piano accompanist Virginia Vance, they were at their precision best in the Tom Fetke arrangement of “Pat-A-Pan Salsa,” featuring a dance beat for piano and chorus. The singers closed their five-number set comically with “The Twelve Days After Christmas.”
Six players got into the act as Pamela Nelson directed the Meredith Flute Ensemble in four standards. With this ancient set entitled “A Christmas Noel,” these students demonstrated the winning effects of the multiple instruments. Next, and leading toward the “main event” was an a cappella group dubbed “Encore!” with director Tricia Strong. These twelve singers were characterized by close harmony and precision. Their best work was on the best of their five songs, “Winter’s Night,” by Nicholas Myers.
To top off the celebration, conductor and Music Department Head Fran Page summoned the Meredith Chorale. These twenty-five singers excelled in a cappella mode with Jacob Arcadelt’s (1507-1568) version of “Ave Maria.” Waddelow and the Sinfonietta joined the Chorale for the high-powered “Gloria” by the contemporary Norwegian composer, Ola Gjielo. For excitement it would be hard to beat Engelhardt’s “Gaudate,” (to be “Sung in the style of a Gaelic chant”). Seemingly everybody participated, even augmented by four guest percussionists. Here was a huge work, so well realized by these fine forces.
This Christmas gathering could not be considered “whole” without all the massed choirs (with guest Meredith alumnae if present) flanking the auditorium. In this long-standing tradition, Fran Page and David Lynch ensured a quality finale with John Rutter’s arrangement of the ancient “Personent Hodie.”