After 27 Years, Maestro Alan Harler Conducting His Final A Feast of Carols Holiday Concert with Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill
(PHILADELPHIA) As it has for over eighty years, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia will celebrate the holiday season with a series of performances in December. At 5 pm on Saturday December 14, several hundred music lovers from all over Philadelphia will gather in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill to share the experience of Mendelssohn Club’s 27th annual holiday concert in that historic church. A Feast of Carols is now treasured as Philadelphia’s longest-running holiday concert tradition. Tickets for A Feast of Carols are available online at www.mcchorus.org.
Mendelssohn Club first appeared in a Christmas program at St. Paul’s in 1988, the first year that maestro Alan Harler raised his baton as Artistic Director of the 141-year old chorus. Michael Stairs was the organist for that first Christmas concert and has become a regular collaborator at St. Paul’s, along with a brass ensemble led by trumpeter Eric Schweingruber.
Alan Harler will be retiring as Artistic Director of the 130 member Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia at the end of the 2014-2015 season. Unlike his usual thematic Feast of Carols concerts at St. Paul’s, Harler is taking a different approach this year. He has constructed a program around his favorite repertoire from the more than twenty Christmas programs that he has led at St. Paul’s.
Alan Harler Picks His Personal Favorites from 26 A Feast of Carols Concerts
“We’re including two wonderful American Christmas songs,”says Harler. “Charles Ives’ beautiful unison A Christmas Carol, which was also programmed on that first Christmas concert, and Don St. Pierre’s choral arrangement of Peggy Lee’s charming Christmas Lullaby. And of course we’ll feature a number of favorite carols, many in David Willcocks’ marvelous arrangements, to sing with the audience.” The concert also includes Daniel Pinkham’s iconic Christmas Cantata, which has been prepared and will be conducted by Mendelssohn Club assistant conductor Ryan Tibbetts.
Also, Mendelssohn Club’s composer-in-residence Don St. Pierre has prepared an arrangement of the medieval carol Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.
Along with several beloved carols and beautiful lesser known Christmas songs, this year’s program includes sacred music from the Russian Orthodox tradition. The wonderful sonority of these unaccompanied hymns is a perfect match for St. Paul’s warm sounding acoustics. Harler will open the concert with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Slava, which, while not actually a Christmas carol, does have a Yuletide connection. As Harler notes, “Slava” is great fun to sing, bringing together the chorus, Michael Stairs at the organ and the Mendelssohn Brass. It is the perfect opening song for a concert which ends very quietly and reverentially.
When asked about that first Christmas concert in St. Paul’s in 1988, Harler recalls, “We were immediately struck by the exceptionally fine acoustics of the church, the magnificent organ, and the warm and enthusiastic audience, and that’s why our Christmas concerts there have become an annual tradition. We started another tradition in that first Christmas concert by inviting the audience to join us in singing popular carols, a part of the concert which has always been both highly pleasurable and deeply meaningful to me.”
Alan Harler went on to explain that “the holiday concerts are some of the most beautiful and moving experiences for the Mendelssohn Club. Harler believes deeply that “music and the human voice have unique powers to bring together people of different backgrounds and traditions. This is a big part of what motivates all of us to share our love of music with so many other artists and audiences at the holiday season and throughout the year.”
2014 A FEAST OF CAROLS
* the audience will sing along with the chorus on these songs
Slava, A Christmas Song Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
O, Come All Ye Faithful* arr. David Willcocks
Spaseniye Sodelal (Salvation is Created) Paul Chesnokov
Bogoroditsye Devo (Rejoice, O Virgin) Sergei Rachmaninoff
Bogoroditsye Devo (Rejoice, O Virgin) Arvo Pärt
Strannoye Rozhdestvo Georgy Sviridov
Shchedrik (Song of Good Cheer) Mykola Leontovich
Joy to the World* Lowell Mason
I Heard the Bells* J. Baptiste Calkin
Christmas Cantata # Daniel Pinkham
- Quem vidistis pastores
- O magnum mysterium
III. Gloria in excelsis Deo
# Ryan Tibbetts, conductor
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day arr. Donald St. Pierre
O Magnum Mysterium Morton Lauridsen
Fum, Fum, Fum arr. Shaw/Parker
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing* Felix Mendelssohn
A Saviour from On High Stephen Paulus
The First Noel* arr. David Wilcocks
A Christmas Carol Charles Ives
Christmas Lullaby arr. Don St. Pierre
Silent Night* Franz Gruber
Mendelssohn Club Holiday Concert Series Details:
5 pm, Saturday, December 13, 2014
A Feast of Carols
with Mendelssohn Brass and Michael Stairs, organ
Alan Harler, Conductor
Celebrate the holidays with Mendelssohn Club Chorus with holiday favorites old and new, and with its traditional carol sing! Featuring organist Michael Stairs and the Mendelssohn Brass.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Chestnut Hill
22 East Chestnut Hill Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
$28 online | $30 at the door
preferred seating $38 online | $40 at the door
$15 student with ID
Since its founding fifteen decades ago, Mendelssohn Club Chorus has been devoted to sharing great choral music as a way to connect artists, audiences and communities. Mendelssohn Club, one of America’s oldest choruses, continues to expand its repertoire in the 21st century by collaborating with a wide range of musical organizations, each of which is devoted to representing, or reaching out to, new audiences in innovative ways. Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia performs choral music to create a shared transcendent experience among its singers and audiences. Through the excellence of its adventurous performances, Mendelssohn Club advances the development of choral music as an art form.
During its long, rich history, Mendelssohn Club played a role in forming the Philadelphia Orchestra; gave the Philadelphia premiere of the Brahms Requiem, provided more than 300 singers for the American premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, gave the world premiere of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13; and was nominated for a GRAMMY for its recording of the Vincent Persichetti Winter Cantata. The 140-voice chorus is a highly artistic, auditioned chorus, made up of 16 professional core singers; music teachers, professors, therapists, and instrumentalists, as well as those with music training but who have other non-music-related professions. That the chorus’s projects are recognized both for their artistic achievement and as the critical gathering place that it provides for a community passionate about singing speaks to the integral role that it plays in the region, particularly Philadelphia’s singers, instrumentalists, composers, collaborating organizations that they employ and the audiences that they inspire.
Mendelssohn Club believes in taking artistic risks that stretch and challenge its singers and audiences; in supporting the talent, passion, and dedication of its singers, and in the powerful communal experience that comes from shared music-making; in respecting the commitment and appreciation of the audience members; and in ensuring Mendelssohn Club’s long-term stability as an important cultural resource in the region and as an influence in the world of choral music.
“With a passionate commitment to artistic excellence, repertoire diversity, audience engagement, and commissioning new works, the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, under the direction of Maestro Alan Harler, continues to be a dynamic, vibrant, and relevant choral ensemble in the greater Philadelphia community.”
Rollo Dillworth, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Chorus America
For information about Mendelssohn Club’s concerts and programs, or to order tickets for the 2014-2015 season, visit www.mcchorus.org. You can also find Mendelssohn Club on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mcchorus.
Alan Harler, Artistic Director
Throughout his distinguished musical career as Artistic Director of Mendelssohn Club, Alan Harler has been a strong advocate for new American music. During his tenure with Mendelssohn Club, he has commissioned over 55 new compositions, including Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields (2014), David Lang’s battle hymns (2009), Jennifer Higdon’s On the Death of the Righteous (2009), Pauline Oliveros’ Urban Echo: Circle Told (2008) and Robert Moran’s Requiem: Chant du Cygne (1990). Other major commissions included Charles Fussell’s Specimen Days (1992), Robert Stern’s Returning the Song (1994), Cynthia Folio’s Touch the Angel’s Hand (1994), James Primosch’s Fire Memory/ River Memory (1998), Charles Fussell’s High Bridge (2003), and Andrea Clearfield’s The Golem Psalms (2006).
In 1994, Harler conducted Mendelssohn Club in a critically acclaimed recording of the Moran Requiem for Argo/London Records. Under his baton the chorus also released Metamorphosis in 2011. The CD featured Mendelssohn Club commissions by Philadelphia-based composers Jennifer Higdon, Andrea Clearfield, and James Primosch. In recognition of Harler’s contribution to new music, in 2007 Mendelssohn Club established the Alan Harler New Ventures Fund, an endowment to ensure the future commissioning and production of new works and innovative collaborations.
Alan Harler has been honored frequently by his peers nationwide and by leading arts organizations and educational institutions.
In 2009, his provocative programming vision was recognized by Chorus America with the Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art. That same year, he was also honored by the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia with an Honorary Lifetime Membership for Distinguished Contribution to Musical Life of Philadelphia.