URI concert choir to join orchestra, high school singers to spread holiday cheer

Music ensembles will perform three concerts statewide during December

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KINGSTON, R.I. – December 1, 2016 — The University of Rhode Island Concert Choir will perform three ensemble concerts in the Warwick Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary Holiday Series alongside musicians and singers from the Warwick orchestra and seven Rhode Island high schools during the month of December.

This will mark the second collaboration between the URI Concert Choir and the Warwick Symphony Orchestra, which is led by URI alumna and musical director Catherine Gagnon ‘98.

Mark Conley, chairman of the URI Department of Music, said he’s excited for the opportunity to once again collaborate with the Warwick Symphony Orchestra, as well as area high school performers.

“When we performed together a few years ago, it was such a great experience, and it sparked the idea that we can build off of it,” he said. “We haven’t done anything this elaborate before, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The performances will be held at three venues across the state and will include holiday favorites paired with Handel’s Messiah, as well as texts from Renaissance poet Thomas Campion, Emily Dickinson and a commissioned work titled “Now Winter Nights,” by Michael C. Kregler, a professor of music at Providence College. Conley will conduct the performance of “Now Winter Nights.”

Conley said Gagnon pushed to organize the collaboration, which will feature approximately 40 to 50 singers with accompaniment by the orchestra, creating a joyous and moving musical experience.

“Catherine has been very proactive in working on collaborative projects with us and promoting our department,” he said. “It’s very important to her.”

The Holiday Series will hold performances Sunday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. at St. Kevin’s Church, 333 Sandy Lane in Warwick; Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, 84 Cumberland Street in Woonsocket; and Sunday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m., in the URI Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, 105 Upper College Road in Kingston.

General admission tickets cost $15, while tickets for seniors are $12 and children ages 12 and under are free. Visit WSORI.org to purchase tickets.

Conley’s musical calendar doesn’t end with the final performance of the Holiday Series. He’s also teaching an African musical piece to choirs from four area high schools – two urban and two suburban – titled “Meet in the Middle.” The concert will be held Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Smith Center for the Arts, Eaton Street on the Providence College campus.

“Meet in the Middle,” which will hold rehearsals at each school, will give students from different towns the chance to experience their fellow singers’ learning environments and get to know each other in ways they might never come across in their daily lives.

When Conley was approached by Regina McAdam, president of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, to participate, he jumped at the opportunity and had the perfect piece of music already in mind.

“I’m going to introduce these students to a piece I brought back from Mozambique that’s all about peace,” he said. “The idea is that we’re introducing these students to new experiences and that music can bridge these different cultures and experiences. It would be hard to convince students to get together to perform chemistry experiments. That’s not how people come together. We come together through the arts.”