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Combined choirs to perform
Christmas cantata on Nov. 17

Williams' 'Hodie' has
link to 'Day of Infamy'

A community event with roots reaching back to a "Day of Infamy" will be performed at Sam Houston State University Tuesday, when the Huntsville Community Choral Society, SHSU Symphonic Chorus, and Huntsville Children's Choir presents its 1998 fall concert.

"Hodie," or "This Day," a Christmas cantata by Ralph Vaughn Williams, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom.

Featured voices will be Julianne Best (soprano), Wayne Barrett (tenor) and Robert Best (baritone), with direction by Brian Miller, director of Choral Studies at SHSU, and accompaniment by an orchestra of SHSU faculty and students.

"The children's choir has a narrative role in 'Hodie,' reciting many of the familiar biblical texts," said Miller, "while the soloists and adult choir have more of the non-biblical reflections by more contemporary literary figures."

With the exception of the brief opening movement, the hour-long work will be performed in English, with texts provided for the audience.

While the Huntsville community's first Christmas program was a presentation of Handel's "Messiah" on Dec. 7, 1941, Miller considers "Hodie" a contemporary version of the better-known work, using the full modern orchestra instead of the Baroque orchestral forces of Handel's day.

"It has a number of the familiar Biblical texts from the books of Luke and Matthew found in Handel's 'Messiah,'" said Miller. "But 'Hodie' also contains several musical settings of thought-provoking reflections of the Christmas story by writers such as John Milton, Martin Luther, George Herbert, and by the composer's wife, Ursula Vaughan Williams."

Brian Miller, far right, director of Choral Studies at SHSU, will direct the Nov. 17 production of "Hodie." Among those singing with the combined choirs will be, from the left, George Vick, Rebecca Meyer, David Gathright and Sybil Vick.
Participants in this year's program will include George and Sybil Vick, who sang with the 1941 group. Harley Rex, founder of the Huntsville Community Choral Society in 1974, and Elsie Kramer, wife of the 1941 performance conductor William Kramer, have also continued their interest and support.

While this year's event marks the 25th Annual Fall Concert of the Community Choral Society, an earlier group performed Christmas music more than a half century ago. Charles Lindsay once recalled how he, Kramer, and Virginia Irvin put on the first event on a day more remembered for a less pleasant reason.

"I came to Sam Houston State Teachers College in the summer of 1940, to head the choral program," he wrote. "I couldn't wait to start work on the 'Messiah' and with the help of Virginia Irvin and her Women's Choir, Bill Kramer and his college orchestra, and my Acapella Choir and Men's Chorus and with the help of several other singers from my high school girl's choir and singers from the various church choirs, we began to put the 'Messiah' together in the spring of 1941."

But the date for that first concert would be remembered for other reasons.

"By that fall the choir of just over 100 voices began to sound like a fine 'Messiah' chorus so we set the date of Dec. 7, 1941 for the first presentation," Lindsay wrote. "Little did we know what was destined to happen that day--Pearl Harbor!" The community's reaction was unexpected.

"When the news came over the radio about what was happening at Pearl Harbor, we discussed the possibility of postponing, but things were too far advanced, so we planned to sing to an empty house, for who would leave their radios? Much to our amazement, the chorus and orchestra came on stage to see that we had a standing room only crowd and some who couldn't get into Old Main at all."

"Hodie" admission is $8 (general), $5 (SHSU faculty and students), and $3 (seniors and children). The performance is made possible in part by grants from the Huntsville Arts Commission.

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Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Nov. 13, 1998
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