Choral heralds harmonic holiday

Katlyn Parker Bray and Joshua Miller at the Acadia Choral winter concert PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

Katlyn Parker Bray and Joshua Miller at the Acadia Choral winter concert

Once again, the Acadia Choral under the direction of Jamie Hagedorn has jump started the Christmas season with beautiful music.

With a theme “Heaven Comes to Earth” and a centerpiece of Felix Mendelssohn’s Christmas Cantata “Von Himmel Hoch,” the concert featured one angelic composition after the other each of which eloquently and tunefully lived up to the concert’s premise.

While some of the opening pieces – “Lullay Thou Little Tiny Child” and “I Saw Three Ships” – were contemporary versions by Donald Bailey, they were equally as lovely and haunting as the more familiar, traditional versions. A highlight here was a dialogue between a robust male chorus and the lilting sopranos.

Also lovely was the trio of recorders played by Linda Kush, Beth Mahar and Eiji Miki that brought an earthy accompaniment to the contemporary pieces and provided an enchanting instrumental interlude.

But the real delight of the evening, the one that everyone was talking about after the concert, was the solo appearance of hometown boy Joshua Miller, of Southwest Harbor, who first appeared on MDI’s Higgins Demas stage, some 14 years ago in the musical Pippin. Back then, the shortish, stocky-ish teenager had a great big voice in search of refinement.

Now in his mid-twenties, Miller has evolved into a professional singer who is fully in control of his rich baritone, which like the young man himself, has grown in depth, beauty and range.

In the Von Himmel Hoch arias, he filled the church with his impressive vocal instrument; made us remember his engaging stage presence in the bluesy, Broadway-like “Heaven’s Gonna Touch the Earth;” and provided a solid harmonic foundation for soprano soloist Katlyn Parker Bray’s exquisite melody in “O Holy Night.” It must be noted that Bray also was able to fill the church will her seemingly effortless bel canto.

The choir also had some terrific moments with a straight gospel turn from the men “Born in Bethlehem” and Tom Fettke’s show tuney “Heaven to Earth,” which might have fit neatly into the musical “Godspell.”

And of course, this being a Jamie Hagedorn program, there was, amongst all those comforting, uplifting harmonics, an unusual, somber, and at times discordant Gwyneth Walker piece. It was rather misleadingly titled “And Joyful Be,” and it featured more of Miller and a rather thrilling, skittering cello solo from William Myers.

The program ended with a rousing crescendo of Mendelssohn’s “Hark the Herald” and, of course, the traditional carol sing-along.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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