Easton Choral Arts Society celebrates the Christmas season with “Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio,” on Friday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 9 at 4 p.m. at Christ Church Easton. Late in 1858, the Church of the Madeleine commissioned 23-year-old Camille Saint-Saëns to write an oratorio for that year’s Christmas celebration. He set to work on December 4, and by December 15 had finished a 10-movement work telling the Christmas story, with additional commentaries upon that event. Christmas Oratorio is an intimate work that requires five soloists, a chorus, and small instrumental forces—an organ, a harp, and strings.
Maestro Wes Lockfaw, who directs the chorus, states, “In this work, Saint-Saëns blends a number of musical styles—narrative recitatives, folk-like melodies, passionate operatic solo passages, and simple choral writing.”
Soloists include Soprano Yulia Petrachuk, who sang with Easton Choral Arts Society last spring; Mezzo Soprano Katelyn Jackman; Contralto Alexandra Coburn; Tenor Joshua Baumgardner, also a returning soloist; and Bass William Meinert. Born in Russia, Petrachuk studied at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and is a graduate of Bern Opera Studio in Bern, Switzerland. She has performed at the Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, at the Vienna Music Festival in Vienna, Austria, and at Smetana Hall in Prague, Czech Republic. As a bass, Meinert, who currently studies with William Sharp at Peabody Institute, has been praised for his “evenly produced, promising bass” (Opera News) and “charismatic [and] exhilarating comic flair” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). This season, he performed with Baltimore Concert Opera, with Opera North, and with Madison Opera. Alexandra Coburn, a contralto from Houston, Texas, is an undergraduate from Louisiana State University. She is currently studying in Washington D.C. at the Potomac Vocal Institute under Elizabeth Bishop. Jackman has performed at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood Music Center, and Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar. This season, she will return to Baltimore Concert Opera, the Annapolis Opera, and the Kennedy Center. Baumgardner is a fresh new voice in the world of classical music. He teaches in Washington DC, where he also maintains an active performing career that spans works from Haydn and Mozart, to modern, 20th century operas written with the intent of bringing young, new audiences into the world of classical music.
“Saint-Saëns Christmas Oratorio,” opens with a pastoral instrumental prelude which sets the mood for the Christmas story, evoking images of a shepherd playing a flute, and a rustic manger, with the holy family and adoring animals. Although Saint-Saëns commented that this movement is in the style of Bach, it is pure 19th century Romanticism. His Quartet movement for two sopranos, alto, and baritone is crafted in Handelian style. At the end of the performance, the audience will join the chorus with additional seasonal selections.
Easton Choral Arts Society, Inc. is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization funded in part by the Maryland State Arts Council, the Talbot County Arts Council and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. Tickets will be $30 at the door and are available online in advance at $25 at www.eastonchoralarts.org or at Ticket Hotline 410-200-0498. Students will be admitted free (reservation required). Seating is limited, so advance ticket purchases are recommended.
ECAS was founded in 1977 by organist Florence Ruley of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, a group of caring singers was organized to commemorate the installation of a new bishop. The experience was so rewarding that they continued with the idea of singing two to three concerts a year. As public appreciation and awareness of the Easton Choral Arts Society was growing within the community. Its presence was marked by a new and thoughtful broadening of the repertoire, featuring guest soloists, and professional instrumentalists.
In 2010, Wes Lockfaw became Easton Choral Arts Society’s fifth Artistic Director. A very talented and accomplished organist, pianist, and choral director, Wes has led music ministries in seven states as well as having served as a choral adjudicator, clinician, and piano instructor in a college environment. In January of 2009, he accepted the position of Organist and Music Director at Christ Church Episcopal in Easton, Maryland where he directs ensembles ranging from children to adults.
Thanks to community support, Easton Choral Arts is keeping the spirit of its mission alive — to bring great choral masterworks programs to audiences of all ages on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.