Chorale concert celebrates 50 Years of Holiday Memories

By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer
December 3, 2009

MANCHESTER — Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale will bring the music of the world to Manchester with a holiday concert by the chorale, conducted by Kevin Mack, on Saturday, Dec. 5, at South United Methodist Church.

The celebration of MSOC’s 50th season continues as its members prepare for the concert and remember the special place that music has in their lives and the life of the community.

For many of the chorale members, singing in a local church or holiday festival is one of their earliest holiday memories, and they’ve continued their musical experience with MSOC.

Diana Belbruno recalls, “One special occasion was performing Handel’s Messiah in the State Office Building with MSOC some years ago. It was glorious.”

Of course, the music that brings back memories of the holidays they’ve celebrated here at home is from all over the world. The concert program includes a variety of these favorites.

From the British Isles come many traditional carols, including “Ding, Dong, Merrily on High” and “I Saw Three Ships.” Closer to home, rousing American spirituals such as “Go Tell it on the Mountain” have become part of the Christmas songbook.

A charming carol in Spanish, “Pastores á Belén,” recalls the holiday celebrations described by chorale member Victor Agosto, a . native of Puerto Rico. He and his family and friends went from house to house, singing songs and carols, on the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6), in honor of the procession of the Three Kings to Bethlehem.

The major work on the program is by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. “Oratorio de Noël” evokes all the moods of the season in its variety of choral and solo settings, including music for a duet, a trio and even a quintet of soloists.

The guest soloists for this concert, Stanley Wilson and Ray Hardman, have been heard in several recent MSOC concerts. The other soloists in this work are members of the chorale, including Liz Barrett Costa Mayerson, Erin Dutton, Noelle Karnolt, Lydia Messerschmidt, Cindy Trenholm, and Todd McGehan.

Lydia Messerschmidt says her solo work isn’t an extra chore; it adds to the joy of the holidays. “I cannot imagine being a musician and not performing Christmas music.

“Having a small electric keyboard helps, as I can record my lines and then sing along as the keyboard plunks out my notes. The hardest part is having the dog watch me; she just does not understand.”

Learning cherished holiday music and preparing for a performance are exciting, but for the members of the MSOC, the most important part of the music is the joy it brings to them — something they can share with the people around them.

Diana Belbruno remembers caroling with her family “We tramped through the snow to the homes of elderly and shut-in folks and were sometimes rewarded with hot cocoa and cookies. But the best rewards were the smiles on the faces of those to whom we offered our voices in song.”

The MSOC concert “A Holiday Celebration” will be performed at South United Methodist Church, 1226 Main St., Manchester on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.for adults, $12 for seniors and students over 18, and free for those under 18. For more information, call 860-228-2921, e-mail MusicSix [at], or visit: