WASHINGTON — The Peoria Area Civic Chorale, under the direction of Joseph D. Henry, will present "An American Family Christmas" concert next weekend at Five Points Washington.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16 and 3 p.m. Dec. 17.
Featured works will include contemporary arrangements of songs including “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “The Darkest Midnight in December,” and the spiritual “Ain’t That A Rockin’.” The Chorale also will perform many favorite carols such as “Silent Night,” “The Nativity Carol,” “Silver Bells,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”
"In my opinion, each piece selected for this program is a musical gem and each of the ensembles and soloists, including our young artist winners and our special guest, Shelby Jones Wehrenberg, are so exceptionally gifted," Henry said. "I look forward to sharing this program with people in central Illinois."
Featured soloist Wehrenberg, lyric soprano and former Bloomington resident, will perform “The Virgin’s Slumber Song,” “Jesu Bambino,” “O Holy Night” and join the Civic Chorale for a setting of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Wehrenberg attended Illinois Wesleyan, the American Institute of Musical Study in Graz, Austria and Butler University where she studied under Eureka native Thomas Studebaker, the Chorale’s spring 2017 concert guest soloist.
She has performed internationally as Musetta in La Bohème at the International Opera Performing Experience in Mercatello sul Metauro, Italy, as well as recently making her debut performance as Zerlina in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Varna International Opera Academy in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
"It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with Joe Henry and his ensemble. I rarely get to do concerts or performances so close to home, and I am happy to get back to my roots," Wehrenberg said. "I wanted to offer a variety of pieces. "O Holy Night" is a classic and has special meaning to me. I grew up singing it for the Christmas Eve services in my family church, and it was one of the first Christmas songs I learned with my first voice teacher."
Special to Friday night’s performance will be two festival choruses of more than 170 youth combined from fourth grade through junior high from a dozen community schools.
Each performance will feature a talented teen Young Artist competition winner. Megan Ciko of Germantown Hills will perform Friday, Lauren Williams of Washington on Saturday, and Colin Hislope of Bartonville on Sunday.
"It is always such a thrill to gather talented students from surrounding schools who love music and performing," said Beth Rock, Youth Chorus director and outreach education director.
"As the music director, I treasure all the musical moments on stage, but one of my favorites is when the youngest singers of our Civic Chorale family join the adult group for a collaborative performance," Henry said. "This year, we will sing a beautiful and inspirational setting of 'The First Noel,' as arranged by Dan Forrest. I anticipate that the audience will truly enjoy this musical moment and that for all the singers involved, 'The First Noel' will be one of those precious, poignant moments that will forever be sealed in our memories."
The Chorale’s 30 voice Youth Chorus also will perform a set of songs at each concert including “The First Noel,” which will be sung collaboratively with the adult choir.
New this year is the opportunity for children to greet Santa live on stage. Sisters from the Order of St. Francis of Immaculate Conception in West Peoria also will be in the lobby selling their exclusive Christmas ornaments based on the card designs of Rolan Johnson, whose artwork has graced the Chorale’s posters since 1987.
Tickets for “An American Family Christmas” are $20 for adults, with students through college at $8. Tickets are available at 693-6725, online at www.peoriacivicchorale.org, or at the door.
"For many in central Illinois, the Peoria Area Civic Chorale’s 'An American Family Christmas' has become a treasured, seasonal tradition for the entire family," Henry said. "The two-hour, family-friendly performance, not only celebrates the many moods of the Christmas season through a wide variety of beautiful music, but it also represents a unique way for families to spend time and share a quality experience together."