January 21, 2020

Con Brio Choral Society and Con Brio Festival Orchestra to Present Glorius Christmas Music Fest

Concerts Feature Noted Tenor Brian Cheney and A Special Children’s Event

Con Brio Choral Society to present two Christmas concerts in Old Lyme (Photo Bob Lorenz)

Con Brio Choral Society, celebrating its 13th season on the Shoreline, will join with the Con Brio Festival Orchestra in two “glorious” Christmas concerts on Friday, December 10 at 8pm and Sunday, December 12 at 3pm at Christ The King Church, l McCurdy Road, Old Lyme. On Saturday, December 11 from 11am to noon, the chorus will present the second annual Mini Concert for Children, “Seven Joys,” a fun, interactive program for the whole family to be held in the Church community room.

Conductor Dr. Stephen D. Bruce said the concert centerpiece, Giacomo Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, contains some of the “most exuberant choruses ever written.” The program also features a 19-voice motet, Buccinate by Giovanni Gabrieli, which Bruce says should be “spectacular” with brass, organ and woodwinds; Gustav Holst’s Christmas Day;  Francis Poulenc’s Hodie Christus natus est; Domenico Bartollucci’s Jubilate Deo and  Kirke Mechem’s Seven Joys of Christmas as well as familiar Christmas carols with the audience invited to join in, a Con Brio tradition.

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) Verdi’s successor as the leading composer of Italian opera, is best known and celebrated for Madame Butterfly, Tosca and La Boheme. Dr. Bruce notes that Puccini who was a church organist, wrote Messa di Gloria at the age of 21. The piece was well received at its first performance in 1880 but was neglected, presumably because Puccini found his new calling – opera. In 1951 the score was found by an American researcher working on a biography of Puccini in Lucca. “It has delighted choruses and audiences ever since,” Bruce said.

Noted Tenor Featured
Con Brio’s guest soloist for the Messa di Gloria is nationally noted tenor Brian Cheney. Cheney is well known to area audiences for his performances with the Salt Marsh Opera Company. He has been called  “one of the most unique and thrilling American tenors of his generation.” His operatic roles have included  Rodolfo in La Boheme, as well as  Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor,  Don Jose in Carmen and Alfredo in La Traviata..

“ I love singing with choral groups,” Cheney says. “The most exciting and musically fulfilling performing experiences I have had were when I am part of a larger ensemble — either as a cast member of an opera or a soloist in concert with choir and orchestra. I always feel lucky when I have the opportunity to sing Puccini and his Messa di Gloria is no exception!”

 Cheney’s oratorio and concert experience range from critically acclaimed performances in Handel’s Messiah in New York City, Providence and Philadelphia to Mendelssohn’s Elijah; Mozart’s Requiem as well as Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. He recently made his Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall debut that was hailed by the New York Sun: “Cheney exhibited such control, expressiveness and pure vocal beauty that he certainly had the full house in the palm of his hand all evening.”

A Vatican Connection
Dr. Bruce notes that Con Brio’s  recent concert tour of Italy influenced the program: the chorus sang Bartolucci’s  Jubitale Deo, which was written by the director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, in one of  their joint concerts with an Italian chorus.  And there may be no end to which the conductor will go to have the perfect score — “We knew that this piece was scored for orchestra but we didn’t know how to get copies of the instrumental parts,” Bruce said. “One of our tenors, Tony Carrano contacted a family recently moved to Italy and they were able to contact the Vatican directly and they sent us scores and parts.”

Seven Joys, Mini Concert for Children
Last year’s concert was such a rousing success – some 250 in the audience — that Con Brio decided to repeat this fun, interactive program to introduce children to the joys of choral music. The singers and orchestra musicians will be led by Maestro Bruce and a repeat special guest,  ffortissimo the Clown (a.k.a. Matt Saltus, a talented Vermont musician/comedian) and his able assistant, Ransom. Kids can hum, sing, dance, play drums, talk with the musicians in a fun-filled morning for the entire family.The concert is supported in part by an Alfred Nash Patterson Grant from Choral Arts New England. Tickets are $10 per family at the door or may be reserved by calling 860-526-5399.

Con Brio Choral Society presents works of beloved masters and songs from a broad choral repertoire, both sacred and secular, in a spring and winter concert each year.
Susan Saltus, Essex, is associate music director. An auditioned chorus of 50 voices, it is a diverse group ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-70s. Con Brio has attracted both professionals and enthusiastic amateurs, some of the finest singers on the Shoreline. Members are from Branford, Guilford, Clinton, Madison, Westbrook, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River, Chester, Killingworth, Moodus and Groton.

Tickets for the December 10 and December 12 concerts are $25 adults, $15 students. Call (860) 526-5399 or (860) 434-8879. For more information, visit www.conbrio.org