Manchester Chorale concert Saturday ‘Welcome Winter!’

The Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale will present a concert titled “Welcome Winter!” Saturday night.

By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer
December 4, 2014

MANCHESTER — At Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale’s next concert on Saturday, Dec. 6, the Manchester Chorale presents a musical debate: Winter — wicked or wonderful?

New Englanders are just as divided on their attitudes toward winter as they are about sports or politics. Some see the icy cold as a trial to be endured; others as a time of stillness and beauty outdoors and the warmth of friendship and festivities within.

Kevin Mack, the chorale’s music director, has chosen a program that represents both sides. In his program notes for this concert, he writes, “Where do composers turn when contemplating a wintry world, replete with natural austerity and human warmth? To the well-spring of poetry, of course, as do we all when painting with words is needed.”

No less a poet than William Shakespeare makes the case for those opposed to winter. His text, “Blow, Blow, thou winter wind” is heard in settings by three different composers. One, by Arthur Whiting, a Boston native, moves as briskly as a New England gale.

John Rutter emphasizes the melancholy of a cold winter wind that “dost not bite so nigh as man’s ingratitude.” The music by Thomas Arne, a composer of popular songs such as “God Save the King,” is straightforward and tuneful, with very little of the dismay that the text would suggest.

Another great English poet, Thomas Campion, provides a counterargument for those in favor. “Now Winter Nights Enlarge” describes the long nights as a time for “youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights.”

Pageants or dances performed in disguise, known as “masques” or “mumming,” were popular in Renaissance England. They loosened the bounds that society imposed on both nobility and common folk. A madrigal by Thomas Weelkes says of the enticing sparkle of the eye behind a mask, “When Heav’n is dark, it shineth, and unto love inclineth.”

Weelkes himself was no stranger to unseemly behavior. Though he made his living as an organist and choir instructor at the prestigious Chichester Cathedral, the church elders complained in a letter to their bishop that he often arrived for services “from the Taverne or Ale house.”

Certainly feasting and drinking are part of the season. One of the liveliest numbers on the program is John Rutter’s setting of an anonymous 15th-century poem “Good Ale.”

But winter also brings time for contemplation, as depicted by three songs that the chorale will perform with instrumental accompaniment: “The Snow,” with Monika Kinstler and Megan Kwolek, violins; “Winter Solstice,” with Jason Limansky, oboe; and “Winter Waketh all my Care,” with Stephanie Wheeler, flute, and also a tenor soloist, Steven Carpenter.

Manchester Chorale performs “Welcome Winter!” at 7:30 p.m. at Center Congregational Church, 11 Center St. Tickets are $18; $15 for seniors and students, and free for those younger than 18.

For more information, call 860-646-0047, email MusicSix (at), find the Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale on Facebook, or visit: