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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY HUB WILLSONBel Canto concert, 2 p.m. Dec. 7, St. John Windish Church, Bethlehem. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY HUB WILLSONBel Canto concert, 2 p.m. Dec. 7, St. John Windish Church, Bethlehem.

Bel Canto concert theme peace for holiday season

Friday, December 6, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

In addition to the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Dec. 7 and 8 concerts, Bel Canto, the youth choir affiliated with the Bach Choir, is holding its winter concert at 2 p.m. Dec. 7, St. John Windish Church, Bethlehem.

“Patrons can do a double-header,” says Joy Hirokawa, Bel Canto director. “The can go to the Bel Canto concert at 2, go out to dinner and then go to the Bach Choir concert.”

Hirokawa says Bel Canto’s program is eclectic and she’s very excited about it.

She says one of the focuses of the concert is “finding and seeking peace.”

Bel Canto’s concert choir will perform “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Paul Carey, which includes quotations from Thich Nhat Hanh, Anne LaMott, Mahtama Gandhi, Lawrence Binyon and Anton Chekhov.

“He draws from different sources for his text, from traditional Latin to quotes from Ghandi and Chekov,” she says.

“It’s all about finding peace: what is peace and how do we find it? It’s written for voice and piano and is a beautiful piece that is very effective.”

Other songs with a focus on peace are “Peace Like a River,” a traditional spiritual; “Be Like the Bird,” by Abbie Betinis, and the renaissance settings of “Tyrley, Tyrlow,” by Mark G. Sirrett with a recorder obligato, and “Balulalow” by Peter Tiefenbach Wedderburn.

The concert also celebrates the coming new year with a variety of wassail songs. Wassailing dates back to the Middle Ages when people would go door-to-door, singing and offering a drink from the wassail bowl in exchange for gifts.

The concert choir, made up of children in grades 6 - 12 will sing the Greek folk song, “The Kalanta of the New Year (St. Basil’s Day).”

“It’s sort of caroling combined with trick or treating in the Greek community,” says Hirokawa, who conducts the concert choir.

The concert choir also will perform “Oj, u horodi,” a Ukrainian New Year’s carol.

“It’s done in a very bright Eastern European singing style,” Hirokaw says. “It gave young women a blessing to find a partner in the new year.”

The intermediate-preparatory chorus for children in grade 2-6 and directed by Lauren Kostovick and Derek Kostovick, will sing a Cornish Wassail.

The concert choir will sing three different psalm settings: “Laudate Pueri Dominum,” by Felix Mendelssohn, based on Psalm 113:1, 2; “Psalm 92: Mizmor Shir L’yom Hashabbat,” by Srul Irving Glick, and “Psalm 150,” by David L. Brunner.

The younger group will sing Bach’s “Prepare Thyself, Zion” (“Bereite dich, Zion”), from the “Christmas Oratorio”; the Spanish carol, “Ríu Ríu Chíu,” and “Elves,” adapted from “The Merrie Dwarves,” by Pati Nagle.

The two choirs will combine for “This is My Wish,” by Tim and Angela Lauer, and an audience sing-along on the traditional carol, “Silent Night.”

“I’m so pleased with work they are doing,” Hirokawa says of the Bel Canto youths.

Hirokawa founded Bel Canto in 1993. The choir developed an international reputation and has been invited to perform for numerous music conferences.

Bel Canto was the winner of The American Prize in the Children’s Chorus category in 2011 and has toured Central Europe, Italy, Ireland, Canada, England, Oregon, Brooklyn, Disney World, Ohio, and twice to Hawaii for the Pacific Rim Children’s Choral Festival.

In 2013, the choir recorded a Christmas CD with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem that was released on the Analekta label.

In July 2018, Bel Canto merged with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and is now composed of auditioned treble singers from five counties.

Children in grades 2-6 are invited to audition for the preparatory chorus in January.

Bel Canto will join the Bach Choir for the family concert, “Noye’s Fludde” (“Noah’s Flood”), Feb. 29 and March 1, Packer Memorial Church, Lehigh University, Bethlehem.

Bel Canto is looking for children in grade 2-12 to perform as the chorus of animals for “Noye’s Fludde.”

For information on auditions or to become involved in the “Noye’s Fludde” performances, contact Hirokawa at joyhirokawa@comcast.net.

Bel Canto Winter Concert, 2 p.m. Dec. 7, St. John Windish Church, 617 E. Fourth St., Bethlehem. Tickets: at the door; bach.org; 610-866-4382