The Herring Chamber Ensemble, the chamber choral group composed of Greenville Chorale members, will present a three-part program for the two performances of their 21st annual winter concert, featuring music that expresses consolation, celebrates life and singing, and “music that is just plain fun to sing.”
“We have all felt the power of music to reach into our deepest thoughts and feelings,” says Bingham Vick Jr., founder and director of the ensemble. “Sometimes music uplifts us when our spirits are down; sometimes it consoles our souls when we suffer great loss; and occasionally we can revel in the joy and enjoyment of ‘just singing.’ The Herring Ensemble brings together great voices, delightful people, and eager spirits when they sing. We invite the audience to share this wonderful musical afternoon with us.”
The program opens with an unaccompanied “Requiem” by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley.
“The music and words that Daley bring together create a feeling of celebration for the departed, and a warm and compassionate embrace for those still living,” Vick says.
Vick says Daley is not well known in the U.S., but her works are widely performed by choral groups in Canada.
“The piece as a whole is quite moving, and the music is challenging,” Vick says.
He says the audience should identify with it quickly, especially those who are currently experiencing loss. The music itself varies from minor to major keys, and Daley uses a variety of jazz chords that creates an expressive, rather than mournful, sound.
“She is forever throwing in these unexpected sounds, in a positive way, to the normal flow of harmonies,” Vick says.
The “music that celebrates life and singing” section begins with a piece composed by a friend of Vick’s in Chicago, “To Sing in Winter” by Robert Bowker, that muses about the juxtaposition of the dreary weather and the joy of music. “It makes fun of the grayness of winter time,” Vick says.
“Flight Song” by Norwegian composer Kim André Arnesen follows and sums up this section of the program in the first line: “All we are we have found in song,” allowing the listener to get out of themselves and forget the cares of the world.
Two similarly themed works round out the section. Frank Ticheli implores the listener to “Sing, Be, Live, See…” in spite of “scorched earth … war and power,” and an old American folk hymn, arranged by Dr. Ronald Staheli, sums it up: “… Above earth’s lamentation … when tyrants tremble sick with fear … what if my joys and comforts die … though the darkness ‘round me close”… “How can I keep from singing!”
The program closes with homage to the King’s Singers, the all-male vocal ensemble celebrating 50 years in existence. The Herring Chamber Ensemble will perform four of the King’s Singers most popular arrangements: “You are the New Day,” James Taylor’s “That Lonesome Road,” “Short People,” and “I’m a Train.”
Not typical for the winter concert, the program will also feature a guest choir – the Concert Choir from Blue Ridge High School. Because of the snow on Dec. 8, the ensemble was unable to perform at the “Christmas With the Chorale” concert with the Greenville Chorale. Under the direction of Laura Morris (also a singer in the Herring Ensemble), the Blue Ridge Concert Choir will perform three selections from that Christmas program.
Herring Chamber Ensemble with special guest the Blue Ridge Concert Choir
Feb. 18, 3 p.m.
Buncombe Street United Methodist Church, 200 Buncombe St.
Herring Chamber Ensemble
Feb. 25, 3 p.m.
First Baptist Church, 722 Grace. St., Greenwood
Tickets are available from the Peace Center Box Office, Pecknel Music Company, and at the door. $30 adults, $15 students.