Chorale sets tone for the holidays
Last updated 12/12/2023 at 9:45am
Under new conductor Irene Liden's leadership, 48 singers took the stage last Friday and Sunday for the High Desert Chorale's annual choral concert held at Sisters Community Church. They were joined by the Octave, eight bellringers led by Lola Knox, who also was the percussionist for the songfest.
They put up five pieces before intermission and seven after. The opening work, "Exultate Justi," an enthusiastic song by John Williams, showed that Liden and her ensemble were going to delight the audiences for the entire evening Friday and afternoon Sunday.
Sunday's attendance usually dwarves Friday's but not this year.
"We had a strong crowd Friday," Knox said in appreciation. "It feels good to look out and see so many happy faces."
The intergenerational event brought many families with children. The music included well-known tunes like "O Holy Night," performed solo by Carol Lisek, and "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." But Liden broadened the mix and pushed the singers with some challenging pieces. They met the test.
The Chorale only had 27 singers for last year's concert. The additional 21 this year added more than sound volume, providing gravity and range of voices as well. Steve Blauvelt had never sung in a chorus much less solo. He managed both with a well-performed lead of the spiritual "Amen, Go Tell It!" to close the first half.
Following the intermission, a banquet of sweets, Liden and new accompanist Becky Smith turned the concert on the audience, who were asked to sing three popular holiday songs - which they did, with gusto.
Sunday's audience included a good number of residents from The Lodge in Sisters. Both concerts had in attendance Duane Chase, who played 11-year-old Kurt von Trapp in the iconic 1965 movie "The Sound of Music," rewatched millions of times every holiday season.
Chase, a retired software engineer, lives in Sisters. At intermission and after the concerts, he warmly greeted and chatted with long lines of admirers, photo takers, and curiosity seekers.
Bruce and Claudia Williams of Sisters have attended nearly all of the Chorale's holiday concerts.
"A lovely selection of Christmas music and seasonal tunes, conducted and sung beautifully before an enthusiastic crowd," was how Claudia described Friday's performance.
Deb and Jack Lawler, new to Sisters and taking in their first Chorale event, were impressed with the Sunday affair.
"This is another of many happy surprises we've discovered in Sisters," Jack said. Deb went further: "You can tell that Liden is a pro who really got a lot of quality from the singers. We love the way she blended the songs."
Jack added: "We thought this would be a typical community Christmas singalong with mostly songs kids could sing. Boy, were we surprised."