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Music backed by brass band

MONADNOCK CHORUS:  ‘A December Fanfare’

  • Monadnock Chorus director Jim Sharrock leads the Monadnock Chorus in a rehearsal for their upcoming concert, "A December Fanfare."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus director Jim Sharrock leads the Monadnock Chorus in a rehearsal for their upcoming concert, "A December Fanfare."

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus members Stephanie Kyte of Jaffrey, left, Dorothy Graham of Peterborough, Suzanne DeRoche of New Boston, Lori Markowitz of Francestown and Beth Beaudin of Peterborough rehearse at the Monadnock Congregational Church on Wednesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus members Stephanie Kyte of Jaffrey, left, Dorothy Graham of Peterborough, Suzanne DeRoche of New Boston, Lori Markowitz of Francestown and Beth Beaudin of Peterborough rehearse at the Monadnock Congregational Church on Wednesday.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Marilyn Ezell of Temple, left, Chuck Hersey of Harrisville, David McCain of Ashburnham, Mass., Chris McFee of Greenfield and Randy Staver of Wilton sing "Canite Tuba" by David McCullough at a rehearsal to prepare the Monadnock Chorus for their upcoming show, "A December Fanfare" this Saturday and Sunday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Marilyn Ezell of Temple, left, Chuck Hersey of Harrisville, David McCain of Ashburnham, Mass., Chris McFee of Greenfield and Randy Staver of Wilton sing "Canite Tuba" by David McCullough at a rehearsal to prepare the Monadnock Chorus for their upcoming show, "A December Fanfare" this Saturday and Sunday.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Conductor Jim Sharrock of Harrisville lead the Monadnock Chorus in rehearsal for their upcoming "A December Fanfare" concert on Saturday and Sunday at the Peterborough Players Theatre. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Conductor Jim Sharrock of Harrisville lead the Monadnock Chorus in rehearsal for their upcoming "A December Fanfare" concert on Saturday and Sunday at the Peterborough Players Theatre.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Monadnock Chorus director Jim Sharrock leads the Monadnock Chorus in a rehearsal for their upcoming concert, "A December Fanfare."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus members Stephanie Kyte of Jaffrey, left, Dorothy Graham of Peterborough, Suzanne DeRoche of New Boston, Lori Markowitz of Francestown and Beth Beaudin of Peterborough rehearse at the Monadnock Congregational Church on Wednesday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Marilyn Ezell of Temple, left, Chuck Hersey of Harrisville, David McCain of Ashburnham, Mass., Chris McFee of Greenfield and Randy Staver of Wilton sing "Canite Tuba" by David McCullough at a rehearsal to prepare the Monadnock Chorus for their upcoming show, "A December Fanfare" this Saturday and Sunday. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Conductor Jim Sharrock of Harrisville lead the Monadnock Chorus in rehearsal for their upcoming "A December Fanfare" concert on Saturday and Sunday at the Peterborough Players Theatre. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Monadnock Chorus prepares for their upcoming December Fanfare.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

When Jim Sharrock, the artistic director of Monadnock Chorus, was putting together the line up of music for the choral group’s annual holiday concert, “A December Fanfare,” he began, not with the singers, but with the orchestra. The chorus is usually backed by a live band, and this time Sharrock wanted to feature brass-based orchestral pieces that could match the big, bold style of the group’s huge membership.

The end result of the group’s practice is a tour de force of music, mixing a sampling of some of the ancient canon many people associate with sacred orchestral music and works by more modern composers. And with a 100-plus membership, the chorus can do complex works that really shine when performed by a group with enough members to showcase them properly.

“We can do magnificent things because we have the sheer numbers,” said Sharrock, a resident of Harrisville. “You can create a huge wall of sound. And even when you ask them to sing soft, it reminds me of being in a muscle car. You can be crawling down the street, but you can feel the power of the car ready to take off, and that’s what the chorus is like.”

Monadnock Chorus is a nonprofit group that usually meets once a week to rehearse for a handful of performances a year. But that doesn’t mean the group takes their charge lightly. The members attend religiously, and many have been a part of the group for years. The singers make the most of their practices and acquire recordings of their music to practice on their own time.

“All these people have paid their dues,” said Sharrock. “Combined, the members have more than 1,000 years of choral experience. By the time of the concert, they [will] have spent more than 40 hours in rehearsal, plus whatever studying they’ve done on their own time. For them, it’s an act of love. It’s an outlet, it fills a need for music in their life.”

The holiday show this weekend features motets from Anton Bruckner, a Romantic composer from the late 1800s, who was known during his lifetime for writing sacred music. His varied choral musical compositions are often ignored in favor of his symphonies, but are true expressions of his devout Roman Catholic beliefs. The concert will also showcase another composer known primarily for his sacred works, the 16th-century Italian musician Giovanni Gabrieli. Gabrieli’s “In Ecclesiis” in particular works well for the chorus, said Sharrock, because it is piece that requires a lot of singers.

But not all of the music in the Monadnock Chorus repertoire is as ancient as the works of Bruckner and Gabrieli. Sharrock has also taken selections and arrangements from contemporary composers and groups, such as the King’s Singers arrangement of “Boar’s Head Carol” and American composer Donald McCullough’s “Canite Tuba.” The show will also feature “Awake, Arise and Hail the Morn” by Mack Wilberg and “O Clap Your Hands” by Vaughan Williams.

Charles Ruth of Dublin has been with Monadnock Chorus for almost 20 years. He is also a member of the chorus’ much smaller chamber choir, but he said he likes the complexity of music that can only be accomplished in the larger chorus.

“You get a much fuller production and can do some more complicated pieces, with such a large group,” he said in a recent interview with the Monadnock Ledger Transcript at the Monadnock Congregational Church in Peterborough, where the group rehearses. “I tend to prefer the bigger and more complicated music.”

Ruth has been a member of the chorus since he moved to Dublin in 1993 , but a few years ago when he lost his voice he had the chance to experience one of the group’s concerts as an audience member. He said the experience of seeing the concert from the audience’s perspective was a profound one.

“It was tremendous,” he said. “I had never really heard the chorus because I have always been a member, and it was a wonderful experience.”

The chorus’ upcoming concert also promises to be an experience for audience members. And though the selection of music isn’t one that would immediately spring to mind when pairing compositions for a holiday concert, Sharrock said that orchestrally they all work with a brass accompaniment.

“That brought my choices from about 100,000 works to 10,000,” Sharrock said with a laugh, of choosing brass pieces. And exploring those choices led him to some more modern works. In the end, the concert, which is split into two halves, has two anchor points that ultimately decided the rest of the line-up: the modern “Canite Tuba” and the Romantic classic, “In Ecclesiis,” which are two very different works, but both are beautiful examples of intricate choral works, Sharrock said.

The result is a group of works from a very diverse time span. But in not limiting himself to the vast canon of spiritual and sacred classical music that usually makes up choral concerts this time of year, Sharrock has created a unique experience for the audience and singers alike.

Ruth said he appreciates the variety that’s offered, not only by this concert, but by many of the chorus’ performances. There’s usually both a range of difficulty and diverse types of choral music on offer, he said, which lets him try out different things as a singer.

“This is a varied concert. There’s times when it’s reverent and beautiful, there’s times when it’s magnificent and there’s times when it’s intense,” said Sharrock. “It’s going to be a wonderful evening together experiencing this music.”

The chorus will perform “A December Fanfare” Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Peterborough Town House. Tickets are $20 at the door, $18 in advance and $10 for students, and can be purchased at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, Steele’s Stationers in Peterborough or online at www.monadnock-chorus.org until Friday.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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