Nathaniel Lew directs the Saint Michael's Chorale in a concert last year in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel. On December 9 this year the group will perform for the annual Lessons and Carols in the same space. Portraits below, top to bottom, are Lew and Jerome Monachino.
Few locations if any in the greater Burlington region are offering more Christmas music in so many varieties than on the Saint Michael’s College campus this year – as most years.
This past weekend and coming weeks have featured or will feature group performances or individual recitals by vocal and instrumental students, fun performances by three popular student-run a cappella groups, a College-hosted Gregorian chant group led by an emeritus fine arts professor, an Army band and a community chorus, plus seasonal offerings by the Chapel Liturgical Ensemble during Masses .
Factors figuring into this happy equation include campus traditions, the mission of a Catholic College, fine arts pedagogy, an ongoing interest in bringing cultural offerings to campus and an engaged spirit of community by the College.
Many of the concerts directly connect to the studies and academic credits of Saint Michael’s College students, says Saint Michael’s College Chorale Director Nathaniel Lew of the fine arts/music faculty.
For instance, the Jazz Band and Concert Band concert last Friday, Dec. 2, the String Orchestra performance on Monday, Dec. 5 and the Chorale at Lessons and Carols this coming Friday featuring his Chorale on Dec. 9, all involve departmental ensembles whose members can get course credit for their participation, Lew said.
Additionally, both performances next Monday, Dec. 12 also relate to music instruction: In the morning, Professor Susan Summerfield, also of the fine arts/music faculty, will perform the piano sonatinas written as final projects by the students in Advanced Music Theory. Then in the evening, 17 students of the Fine Arts Department’s individual music instructors will display their individual talents in voice, piano, flute, and violin in a joint recital. “All these students have been working most of the semester on this repertory, so these performances represent a lot of hard work and dedication,” Lew said.
Most of performing ensembles also have been working all semester on their repertory, “and of course the instructors did lots of planning of the repertory over the summer, and the recruiting of students early in the semester,” Lew said. “I attended the String Orchestra concert on Monday and was delighted at the large audience that turned out. I am hoping for a big crowd at Lessons and Carols, which this year will include an 11-piece professional chamber orchestra.”
“Public performance is essential to the study of music,” Lew said. “All our work on technique and all of our exploration of the repertory sees its goal in public performance. Students rise to the occasion, and often perform better when the audience is present than they do in rehearsal. This is an important lesson for them to learn. Equally, though, they have to learn that mistakes happen, and that performers must be able to forgive themselves and move on.”
Regarding the many off-campus groups who are giving holiday concerts this year, he said it is just one more way to enrich cultural offerings at the College and connect meaningfully with the greater Burlington community.
“The Fine Arts Department is always very eager to make our wonderful Recital Hall available to local ensembles whose performances deepen our own students’ experience of the arts,” Lew said. “We have had a close relationship with the South Burlington Community Chorus for many year. This year saw the first time that the 40th Army Band from Camp Johnson performed on campus, but it was a spectacular concert and I hope that they will ‘come over the fence’ more often in the future.”
This year seems unusually active on the holiday concert front, he said, noting, “We are having a great year for student performances in particular. In the past, not all the ensembles have performed in the fall (semester).”
Campus Music Minister Jerome Monachino, director of the Liturgical Ensemble that performs for Masses in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel, says this season of the year always is a little different for him because of the church’s liturgical calendar and student schedules: The Church is in the Advent season until Dec. 24, so his group’s music at Masses leading up to Christmas reflects that season instead of Christmas – think “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and similar songs of joyful expectation; then, just in time for Christmas Masses, the student singers and instrumentalists of his Liturgical Ensemble go home for the holidays, so he’s left to do his best with a loyal and talented but smaller chorus and regular rhythm section composed of local alumni or alumni parents -- even his 13-year-old son Dominic does bass duty now and then. The Liturgical Ensemble already is looking ahead in preparation for the group’s annual performance tour, this year to Long Island Feb. 2-6, he said.
Here are holiday-season concerts and Christmas liturgies that were listed on the College’s official calendar for this season, with details about some of the programs:
Saturday, December 3
Saint Michael’s College presents a South Burlington Community Chorus Concert at 7:30 p.m. in McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. The South Burlington Community Chorus will be performing Randall Thompson's masterpiece Frostiana, settings of poems by Robert Frost such as The Road Not Taken and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. Written in 1959 and premiered with Frost in attendance, the music is both beautiful and stirring. Frostiana remains one of the cornerstones of choral music in the 20th century. The concert will also feature the rich music of contemporary American composers Frank Ticheli, Stephen Paulus and Stephen Chatman.
Sunday, December 4
Saint Michael’s College presents a Holiday Concert by the 40th Army Band at 2 p.m. in McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. The Vermont National Guard and the Office of the Adjutant General are proud to present “Vermont’s Own” 40th Army Band performing this free holiday concert. The program will feature holiday favorites including Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” Members of the 40th Army Band serve one weekend a month and two weeks of Annual Training each year in the Vermont Army National Guard. As civilians the rest of the year, they are engaged in such diverse occupations as education, law, security, technology, medical, and sales.
Monday, December 5
Saint Michael’s College presents a concert by the College String Orchestra at 7 p.m. in McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. The String Orchestra will present a “Suite of Suites.” The program includes Purcell, Telemann, Tchaikovsky, and Lou Harrison, among others. Susan Summerfield, College organist and a member of the Fine Arts/Music faculty, will join the 16-member chamber orchestra for two pieces.
Thursday, December 8
Saint Michael’s College presents The Sleepless Knights Winter Concert at 8 p.m. in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. Come hear this entertaining coed student a cappella group perform.
Friday, December 9
Saint Michael’s College presents Lessons and Carols at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel on campus. A holiday tradition! This year, the College Chorale, accompanied by a professional string ensemble, rings in the Christmas season with a suite of traditional carols arranged by the great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and members of the College Community read traditional lessons foreshadowing and recounting the Birth of Christ. Come join in the cheer and sing along to 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,' 'The First Nowell,' and other favorites. Free admission.
Friday, December 9
Saint Michael’s College presents the Mike Check Winter Concert at 8 p.m. in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. Saint Mike's premier all male a cappella group take the stage for the last time this semester. Come see the guys in all their glory for a musical entertainment experience.
Saturday, December 10
Saint Michael’s College presents the Acabellas Winter Concert at 7 p.m. in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. Come enjoy a night with the SMC Acabellas, the only all-women a cappella group on campus. Members promise: “There will be beautiful music, baked goods, and other surprises that you won't want to miss! See you there!”
Sunday, December 11
Saint Michael’s College presents Soulful Harmony’s Fall Semester Concert at 2 p.m. in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall. Soulful Harmony is a small, co-ed a cappella group at St. Mike's whose style is contemporary R&B with a gospel flare.
Monday, December 12
Saint Michael’s College presents a joint recital by vocal and instrumental music students at 7 p.m. in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall.
Sunday, December 18
Saint Michael’s College presents A Festival of Gregorian Chant: Seasonal and Organ Music by the Vermont Gregorian Chant Schola under the direction Professor Emeritus William Tortolano, at 3 p.m. in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel. The Schola will perform the Mass of the Angels as well as liturgical rounds from France, Josquin des Pres and Jacques Clement. Vocal soloist Rosemary Rogers will sing a setting of the Ave Maria by Marcel Dupré. No admission fee. Donations to St. Anne’s Shrine are welcome.
Saturday & Sunday, December 24 & 25
The faith community of Saint Michael’s College with the Society of Saint Edmund will celebrate the following Christmas Masses in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel on campus:
Christmas Vigil, Saturday, December 24 at 8 p.m.
Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25 at 11 a.m.
Saturday, January 7
Saint Michael’s College presents the 30th Annual Twelfth Night Celebration at 6:30 p.m. in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel, featuring the Essex Children’s Choir. Twelfth Night is a collaboration between the choir and adult artists, a holiday tradition of song, dance, instruments, and narrative. This joyous occasion, enhanced by the beauty of the chapel, artistry of the musicians, and audience participation, brings to close the celebration of Christmas. Donations requested. Snow date: January 8 at 4:30 p.m. Information: 863-9161.