Monterey Peninsula Voices presented Remembering Decembers at First Presbyterian Church of Monterey on Sunday afternoon, December 8. This true community group of ninety singers of many ages and levels of experience comes together under the direction of Sean Boulware. Boulware wisely chooses repertoire to show off this group’s capabilities. They look and sound like they are having fun. Enthusiasm always transmits to the audience – you see on their faces and hear in their voices. While the first half represented a number of December favorites around the world, the second half presented a very ambitious major work. This group is consistently and more than solidly accompanied by Michelle Galindo who never fails to make the accompaniments look and sound easy through a myriad of styles.
Starting off the program was the delightful SparkleJollyTwinkleJingley from ELF the musical. The silliness then morphed into Wonder of Winter. This Mark Hayes piece imagines if peace will ever blanket the earth as the snowflake. As each has his or her own memories, composer PinkZebra incorporates many ideas reflecting various memories in Remembering Decembers. Larry Sill has been an integral part of this group as associate conductor. His conducting added the necessary music box like feeling to Once Upon a December. This sweet song from the film Anastasia as arranged by Audrey Snyder had the addition of Chris Hasegawa on bass ukulele and John Lett on percussion. Sill continued his conducting prowess with Andy Beck’s Light expressing the light of Chanukah. Dan Forrest, a most popular composer and arranger, arranged the beautiful and thoughtful See Amid The Winter Snow with counter melody woven around the familiar melody. Judith Clurman, on staff at the Manhattan School of Music, provided the Eight Days of Lights. Sung in both Hebrew and English the lilting three quarter time minor key melody beautifully conveyed the importance of light. Come and See The Baby as arranged by Ruth Morris Gray is a wonderful addition to the spiritual genre. Sill again came to the podium to finish out the first half with John Bolen’s arrangement of A Festival of Carols. And a festival it was to include Joy To The World, Angels from the Realms of Glory, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, O Come All Ye Faithful, and even part of O Holy Night. Even using recorded accompaniment, this chorus more than held their own with tempi and style changes. It was definitely hard not to sing along.
Starting off the second half, was Kevin Membly’s Magnificat. This was a major “WOW” as it is quite the undertaking utilizing not only the voices but also a brass quintet, percussion, and piano. Created as a conversation between the Angel Gabriel and Mary and worked in three sections, the choir again held steadfast with the brass especially in the spritely first movement. The second movement featured a fine trumpet solo to start with horn echoes then addition of piano and more brass. This movement finished in an acappella section. The third movement featured a glorious Gloria Patri. This work definitely showed the versatility of the singers to go from the silliness of the program opening to this major work.
Ending this happy program was another Dan Forrest arrangement of Festival First Noel. Galindo moved from the piano to provide organ accompaniment along with the brass. Audience singing was encouraged and most joined in with enthusiasm. It always seems appropriate to include a sing along for the familiar melodies at this time of year. As the chorus reflected many ages and levels of experience, the brass ensemble not only featured experienced local musicians but a young woman on tuba who more than held her own providing a strong bass line.
Boulware continues to shape this group and also challenge it to new heights.