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Winnipeg choral groups sing something to please everyone

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Fasten the seat belts on your sleigh! The holiday season is fast approaching and Winnipeg choral groups will serenade you into the yuletide spirit with a selection of concerts to suit just about any musical taste.

Whether you fancy traditional carols like Hark! The Herald Angels Sing or prefer something more upbeat like a jazz version of We Three Kings, there are musical treats for everyone over the next few weeks.

Here are just a few concert possibilities available, arranged by date:

The Winnipeg Singers (WS) celebrate their 40th anniversary with A Canadian Christmas on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 3 p.m. in Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (Wardlaw at Nassau). There is a special Manitoba flavour to this event, with organist/musicologist Dietrich Bartel reading Neepawa-born author Margaret Laurence's The Christmas Birthday Story between choral selections. WS will perform music by Manitoba composers Andrew Balfour and Fred Penner, and you'll be charmed by the youthful voices of the St. James Assiniboia Junior Concert Choir. There are also opportunities for the audience to sing along.

Works include Balfour's Wyandot's Realm, Penner's The Season, Noel Nouvelet and Lullaby for the Christ Child. Tickets are $25/adults, $22/seniors, $10/students at McNally Robinson Booksellers or at the door.

The Bison Men's Chorus has a spirited concert planned for Sunday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at The United Church in Meadowood (111 Dakota St.) Admission is free but in keeping with this giving season, audience members are encouraged to make a free-will offering. This will support 1HOPE Winnipeg, a group of non-profit organizations serving individuals living with addictions, the homeless, or those discriminated against on the basis of race, income or sexual orientation.

On the program are spirituals like Plenty Good Room, the aforementioned jazzy We Three Kings, How Far Is it to Bethlehem, Robert Shaw's arrangement of folk song L'il Liza Jane and an intriguing-sounding number entitled The Roast Beef of Old England.

The Renaissance Voices' annual choral celebration of advent has become a popular tradition, in part because of the piping hot mulled wine or cider included in the ticket price. This year's concert is called Midnight Clear: Songs of Wonder, Mystery and Joy and is held on consecutive nights: Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14 and 15, at Young United Church (Broadway at Furby). The lights are dimmed; listeners sit at tables with a plate of munchies and are lulled by the choir singing pieces including Arvo Pärt's Magnificat, the 13th-century carol Veni, veni Emmanuel and local composer Tim Corlis's Silent Dawn. This is the first year to see the group's new conductor Janet Brenneman in action. (But listen for former conductor Derek Morphy in the bass section.)

Tickets are $20/adults, $10/students at McNally Robinson Booksellers and at the door.

Rainbow Harmony Project concerts never fail to put smiles on faces and this year's Many Gifts Concert on Saturday, Dec. 15, looks like another sure thing. They've covered every angle of the season from Auld Lang Syne to Three Hanukkah Songs to Navajo Blessing and thrown in some gems like Karl Jenkins' Adiemus and the serene Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening for good measure. Artistic director Vic Hooper and his troops will show their resilient sense of humour with Gay vs. Straight Composers and Be Careful, Don't Tear the Paper (a series of exhortations concerning thrift).

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. at Knox United Church, 400 Edmonton St. Tickets are $15, available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, The Happy Cooker, The Rainbow Resource Centre, online at and at the door.

The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir, like the Winnipeg Singers, has inserted speaking roles into its Holiday Memories concert at Westminster United Church on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. Six well-known Winnipeggers and the Phil's president will share favourite seasonal memories between choral numbers. Soprano Tracy Dahl, CBC Radio's Andrea Ratuski, Shaw TV's Tracy Koga, Winnipeg Harvest's David Northcott, Olympian Desiree Scott, composer Andrew Balfour and Barry McArton will provide reminiscences.

The Phil returns to this format, which was well-received three years ago, but an open mike concept can be a risky move. Let's hope the soliloquies are short, sincere segues to the music that follows.

Also joining the Phil is the Henry G. Izatt School Choir and organist Don Menzies. Music includes I Wonder as I Wander, Scots Nativity, Shepherds Rejoice, Believe from the movie Polar Express and Tracy Dahl soloing in O Holy Night.

Tickets are $25/adults, $20/seniors, $10/age 30 and under. Children under six are admitted free. Available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, at the door or by calling 896-7445.

So be sure to take time out of your busy holiday schedule to stop and listen to the music!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 D3

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