A pair of concerts last weekend enabled RCS artistic director Beth Mosier to demonstrate to packed houses her talents at putting together a holiday program consisting of traditional holiday favorites and up to date additions to the seasonal repertoire. This year’s concert also featured the Old South UMC Handbell Choir led by Old South music director Susan Holloway.
A prelude of the traditional French carol “Sing We Now of Christmas” was played by Holloway on the organ and Joe Beninati, the RCS accompanist and band director, on the piano. Rev. Jamie Michaels of Old South UMC welcomed the gathering to the church.
“Night of Silence” is a piece sung simultaneously with “Silent Night.” The composer was inspired by the moonlight on a cold winter’s night. One chorus of the song was covered by alto Lynda Lydecker, the RCS president who is also an accomplished flutist, and oboist Tracy McLaughlin Jaskot. During the final verse, the church was darkened, leaving only the Christmas tree and the individual lights held by the singers to illuminate the hall.
In “Text Me Merry Christmas” the duo of Abby Santana and Gabe Dietz remind each other that for December keep your phone charged, find the right emojis, send selfies since a snap from Snapchat won’t do, but a smiley face will remind me that you’re still there.
An up-tempo reminder to rejoice in the lighting of the candles of menorah for Chanukah, “Celebration of Light” saw the addition of klezmer clarinetist Steve Gold who accompanied the chorus while a troupe of singers danced the hora down the aisles of the church. “A Hannukah Wish” for family, friends, and happiness throughout the year incorporates the traditional Hebrew “Maoz Tzur” sung on Chanukah while bass Henry Seider presented the lit menorah.
“Somewhere in My Memory” incorporated the handbell choir into the performance, and Kristina Rio sang the solo. The bell ringers starred in their own segment of the program with a trio of appropriate seasonal songs, “Celtic Cradle Song,” “Awake, Awake and Greet the New Morn,” and “Cantad al Señor,” and then joined the chorus once again in “Christmas Is Coming.”
Most of us know all about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but few of us realize that before taking his sleigh gig, he was a vaudeville comedian. “Rudolph the Vaudeville Reindeer” features Fred the Elf (Paul DeStefano) and Rudolph (Dick Knowles) in a skit of trading repartees about reindeer lore.
It can’t be Christmas without hearing the Hallelujah from Handel’s “Messiah.” Although the audience was hip to the texting jargon, in Saturday’s performance, not a single traditionalist rose to stand during the rendition. After Beth Mosier’s reminder on Sunday, some of the audience did try to preserve this peculiar musical custom, but the reverence toward King George II is clearly fading.
The finale was a dance number performed by those singers who are brave enough to get out and show their moves. “Swing into Christmas” includes the tunes “In the Mood” adapted for Christmas by new lyrics, “Silver Bells,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The energetic swing dancing left the audience in a gay mood appropriate to the season.
The Reading Community Singers is a chorus of 90 men and women of all ages who desire to sing and share music with the community. No audition is required. The next season will start in the middle of January. If you are interested in joining, check www.readingcommunitysingers.org for details.