By Kameko Lashlee Gaul
Those looking for family-oriented, holiday fun that’s equal parts comic and touching should stop by The Washington Center to experience the Masterworks Choral Ensemble’s Yuletide Celebration: A Holiday Concert. December brings the ensemble’s 38th-annual performance, historically presented on the first Saturday in December. Although the celebration is a family Christmas concert at its core, this year the choir places emphasis on the ancient Yule festivals from which many modern traditions stem.
Conductor and director Gary Whitley embraced change for this iteration, in terms of both chorus members and his artistic decisions. Says Whitley, “For this, our 38th season, I am most excited about the revitalization of our choir with many new members — as well as a very special, youth, guest artist, Camille McLean, performing Chopin’s Ballad No. 1 on piano. We continue our long tradition of presenting very musically diverse concerts all season long. In our program, the audience will hear many familiar Christmas Carols — ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ ‘Masters in This Hall,’ ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Jingle Bells’ — as well as some new songs by Enya, ‘White Is in the Winter Night,’ and music from The Nutcracker in a humorous arrangement for choir. Our women will perform an amazing seven-part tone poem called ‘Tundra’ that is just stunning for its beauty.”
In classic Olympia fashion, some numbers run to the unconventional side. “We have four audience sing-alongs,” Whitley continues, “and use various instruments — handbells, cellos, oboe, recorder and drums — to spice up the event. And we will have a couple of interesting twists on ‘Jingle Bells’ in this concert, including one in which the audience will be asked to download a free smartphone app to be used to accompany us while we sing. Lastly, we always find time to have some musical humor. In this concert we will sing ‘A Wacky Family Christmas.’”
Yuletide Celebration: A Holiday Concert
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia