The Concert Singers of Cary continued its yearlong 15th anniversary celebrations with a marvelous a cappella concert by its Chamber Choir, presented on December 17 in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The lovely venue and the superior singing of the large chamber choir (50 or so voices) made for a lovely evening. CSC Artistic Director Lawrence Speakman directed the program, which consisted of 16 relatively short numbers that spanned centuries of Western art music and many styles.

The choir processed while singing Elizabeth Poston’s serenely beautiful “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” Once in place, the program continued with works by Palestrina and Samuel Scheidt, whose “A Child Is Born in Bethlehem” featured no less than eight soloists from the ensemble – Cathy Snell, Amy Athavale, Donna Parker, Dottie Arold, Katy Bowman, Katherine Booker, Karen Davis, and Jennifer Fahey. Alas, this unusual number, in which solo artists intone lines and the chorus responds, got off to a somewhat shaky start – where do singers get those pitches when singing a cappella? – but recovery was prompt and the piece made a fine impression, overall. A German motet by Mendelssohn – “Frohlocket ihr Völker auf Erden” – demonstrated the choir’s outstanding artistic abilities and superior diction; although there were neither texts nor translations, the words were crystal clear. It was good to hear Herbert Howells’ “A Spotless Rose” again, for it is one of the gems of our time, and this performance was further enhanced by tenor Simon Bates’ expressive singing. A French carol and Joseph Flummerfelt’s setting of “S’Vivon” brought the short first half to a positive and cheerful close.

Part two was devoted to lighter fare, starting with “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (with soloist Lori Volpe), but there was no lessening of artistic quality, for the components of this section had clearly received painstakingly thorough preparation. In a sense, the overall program continued the international theme enunciated in the CSC’s last concert, for there were works from all over, including the Islands (in the form of Robert DeCormier’s setting of “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy” (with finger cymbals played by Ruth McCoy) to beautiful, scenic Hackensack. The lineup encompassed superior versions of some familiar fare by expert arrangers Nancy Grundahl, David Willcocks, Charles Wood, Gordon Langford, and Mac Huff, plus two rarities – “O Little Town of Hackensack” (with its charming reference to that mecca of New Jersey culture, Tenafly) and “Good King Kong Looked Out” – by the famous (or, as Speakman observed, infamous) P.D.Q. Bach (a.k.a. Peter Schickele). These probably weren’t the evening’s most important scores, but they certainly lightened the proceedings and helped send the audience away – after a moving rendition of “Home for the Holidays” (with soloist Jamie Fussell) – in a truly festive mood.

The CSC’s 15th anniversary season resumes February 11. Click here for details.