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MU Choirs to Sing 'Nine Lessons, Carols'

Charlaine Grosse
Staff Writer

On Dec. 7, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Manchester University’s Chamber Singers, Cantabile women’s choir and guests will present the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 113 W. Main St., North Manchester.

The tradition of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols came from England and is traditionally followed at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music are combined with readings from the Bible.

“This event is a worship service combined with a concert,” said Dr. Debra Lynn, associate professor of music and chair of the music department. Cantabile, an auditioned ensemble composed exclusively of women, will be there to captivate your ears. “I get to hear a lot of young girls, so it is refreshing to hear women singing here,” Lynn said. Chamber Singers, which is composed of 18 members, men and women, and is the most select group of campus, will sing along with a trio of guest singers composed of Daniel Belcher, David Moan and Eric Reichenbach.

Belcher, the 2011 Grammy Award–winning performer of the best opera recording; Moan, an alumnus and singer with the Detroit Opera; and Reichenbach, a physician at the Manchester Clinic, are going to interpret a piece called “The Wise Men,” a composition by Lynn. “It’s a premiere, and that is always a little nerve-wracking, but exciting,” Lynn said.

“I compose as often as I can,” she continued. “It is an important creative endeavor for me. I especially enjoy writing for musicians I know personally, because it allows me to take their personal singing or playing styles into account. For instance, I know David,Eric, and Danny very well—and I know their voices well. I know the way their voices will blend and which ones will stand out more in certain registers, so I can compose for them in a way that plays to their individual strengths as singers.”

For the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service, the choirs are directed by three student conductors. Adam Ousley is conducting the piece with the Chamber Singers, along with Angelina Jung and Erica Reffitt, who are conducting one piece each with Cantabile. Ousley will also conduct a selection from the Messiah: “Glory to God,” composed in 1741 by George Frederic Handel.

The tradition of holding this service at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church started three years ago, featuring Robin Gratz, an organist who is also the recently retired director of Manchester University’s Funderberg Library. “We started to celebrate this tradition at Gratz’s church because their sanctuary is a good acoustic space for this event, and they have one of the better organs in the community,” Lynn said. It is also the church where Robin is organist, so that was a logical choice, since he was the organist for the event.”

Alex Drew, senior vocal performance major at Manchester University, section leader, student conductor and bass in the choir will be singing a solo, but that does not seem to worry him. “I have done so many concerts before that I’m used to it now,” Drew said. “Plus, I am not the only one to have a solo; we are about five singers.” They started rehearsing one month ago and they meet twice a week. “Both ensembles are singing difficult music, but they are rising to the challenge well, as usual,” Lynn said/

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Christmas service is definitely appreciated by the community. “I have received very good feedback; I even received emails asking if we were doing it again this year,” Lynn said.

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