The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Sierra Master Chorale & Orchestra
Dances for the Season: Holiday Special - December 20, 2014
by Nancy Bramlett
The name of this group was well chosen. The performers are indeed masterful. Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra are located in a much less densely populated area than the Sacramento area. And yet this auditioned Chorale and professional orchestra regularly delight not only Grass Valley residents, but the many who travel far to experience the music and artistry of this exceptional group. I arrived 20 minutes early and barely got a seat. I'm told the Sunday performance was even more sought after. The community values and supports this organization like few I've seen. This wonderful Chorale began in 2008. Conductor Ken Hardin has an impressive resume and is a blessing to this community of music lovers.
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The welcome to the concert was heartwarming: “Hope, light, love, peace and joy to all of you.” The first three pieces were of an older tradition. The orchestra began with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Greensleeves,” which led into a chill-producing processional with the chorus singing “What Child Is This?” Mendelssohn's “There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob” enthralled us with warm and wonderful harmonies and Bach's “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring” in German and then English was flawless.
John Rutter's contemporary “What Sweeter Music” was a beautifully reverent piece with delicious melodies and luscious harmonies. And then the audience performed magnificently “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.” Joy was in this place! The finale for the first half was written by a local composer, Jerry Grant. He has an extremely impressive history of composing for TV and film, as well as symphonic music, chamber music and choral music, including for his own group, NuJazz Alternative. The piece, “Rejoice!” was a moving experience of rhythm and perfect repetition. Sections were magnificent and powerful. Other sections were mysterious and hushed. The range of dynamics entangled the heart and brought exuberant chills at the conclusion.
The second half of the concert opened with contemporary composer Dr. Derek Healey's two a cappella pieces and then we were treated to a terrific arrangement of “Sing We Now of Christmas” with fabulous rhythmic interest, terrific orchestral performance and wonderful rich choral sound. The orchestra began “White Christmas” with a lush arrangement and then the audience enthusiastically joined in, alternating with the Chorale. The sing-in continued with a rousing rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” “March of the Toys” was superbly done by the orchestra. My hands and feet could not be kept still.
Then Toon Vandevorst, the assistant conductor of the Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra, conducted the chorus and orchestra in the premier of his own composition, “Dances for the Season.” Bravo, Sierra Master Chorale, for supporting local and new talent. The composition encompassed many Christmas carols in unique textures and harmonies and in the form of dances. Finally, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” complete with holiday hats, was a delightful way to end the evening.
I highly recommend attending their next concert May 17 at 2 p.m. and May 19 at 7:30 p.m. In addition, InConcert Sierra, the force behind this and other musical performances in the area has many other delights in store for the region. You can check out their web page at www.inconcertsierra.org.
Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO. She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis. Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale. She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services. Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.