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Maestro Julian Wachner conducts one of his last Christmas Concerts with The Washington Chorus at The Kennedy Center. (Photo Credit: Patrick D. McCoy)

The Washington Chorus presented annual “A Candlelight Christmas” at The Kennedy Center

Maestro Julian Wachner conducts one of his last Christmas Concerts with The Washington Chorus at The Kennedy Center. (Photo Credit: Patrick D. McCoy)

Maestro Julian Wachner conducts one of his last Christmas Concerts with The Washington Chorus at The Kennedy Center. (Photo Credit: Patrick D. McCoy)

During the holidays, the Washington area offers a rich variety of concerts for everyone to enjoy, and many happen right at The Kennedy Center. This year, The Washington Chorus under the direction of Julian Wachner continued its tradition of presenting “A Candlelight Christmas.” One of the fascinating features of this concert is the intentional inclusion of audience participation. Before the concert, as his tradition, Wachner came out on stage prior making all to feel comfortable and encouraging everyone to participate in the singing.

Beginning with a beautiful processional by the chorus, there was a feeling of awe and mystery as the voices moved into the hall with the glow of candlelight. The traditional carol “Once in Royal David’s City” grew from a lone solo voice to the full chorus accompanied by Christopher Betts at the organ. Continuing in the grand tradition of the festive carol, the program continued with the “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Marked by the glorious fanfare of the brass ensemble and organ, the favorite carol was sung lustily by the full house.

Three choral settings of beloved carols were featured next by The Washington Chorus. “Sing We to this Merry Company” by John Rutter was an expression of joy as the brass, organ and percussion seemed to announce the good news. The setting of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” arranged by Gerre Hancock was especially a gorgeous showcase for the women’s voices of the chorus. Soaring tones and expressive legato singing was such a hallmark during the rendering of this carol. Closing the group was the rousing “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” by John Gardner. The dance-like, syncopated rhythms and precision from the drums carried the spirit of the text forth with joy.

Educational outreach has been a major part of Julian Wachner’s tenure as music director of The Washington Chorus. Continuing in that spirit, The H-B Woodlawn Chamber Singers under the direction of Bill Podolski performed four seasonal favorites. Of special interest was a lovely contrasting arrangement of the carol “Ding Dong, Merrily on High” arranged Chester Alwes and a jazzy take on the traditional spiritual “Mary Had a Baby” by Philip Kern which quoted the familiar tune “Ode to Joy.”

The full Kennedy Center audience was eager to join in singing of Christmas Carols. Favorites of the evening were “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and Julian Wachner’s setting of “Joy to the World” which put the voices of the audience on full display. Wachner seemed to enjoy quick, fast tempos that definitely kept the audience on their toes.

A special treat was the appearance of the internationally acclaimed tenor Carl Tanner in Adolphe Adams’ classic “O Holy Night.” Tanner sang with a bright, resonant tenor that projected into the hall with great ease. Building the momentum with the full organ and surrounded by the seraphic voices of the chorus, the holiday favorite resounded with majestic power and wonderment.

Ending a wonderful evening of music was the chorus’ signature “The Dream Isaiah Saw” by Glenn Rudolph and “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”

Julian Wachner

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