As a child who intoned Gregorian chant throughout grade school in my parish church and much later as an adult who once sang in the 2nd tenor section of the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus, there is no one who loves and appreciates choral music more than me. That is why I qualify myself as I highly recommend that you not miss the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir’s annual “Festival of Carols” that will be presented on Dec. 15, 16 & 17 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
Leading the 200-member choir composed of singers with above-average talent and skills and the marvelous Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra with David Duncan playing piano was artistic director Dr. Eric Stark, who is responsible for a standard of excellence that has positioned the ISC as the premier choral group in Indiana and one of the finest in the U.S. Nowhere was that excellence more evident than the festive annual holiday concert that I attended Sunday at the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts on the campus of Butler University.
Joining a sold-out crowd, there were moments when I was completely mesmerized as I listened to the program of carols and seasonal songs with Broadway star Alice Ripley (2009 Tony-Award winner for Best Lead Actress in a Musical – “Next to Normal”) as the featured soloist.
Among my favorite moments during the often inspirational, lighthearted and highly entertaining concert was the opening of Act 1, when the ISC sang “Joy to the World,” followed by Ripley and the choir performing the haunting “Once Upon a December” (from “Anastasia”); the ethereal “On Earth As It Is In Heaven” (from “The Mission”) by Ennio Morricone; and an intriguing new piece entitled “Susanni (A Little Child There is Ybore)” by Saunder Choi, the winner of the ISC 2017 Christmas Carol Commission Competition.
Act 2 highlights for me included “Hail to Christmas” (from “Babes in Toyland”); “Do You Hear What I Hear?” a perennial “Festival of Carols” favorite; “The Hut Song and Mele Kalikimaka,” featuring ISC assistant artistic director Dr. Michael Davis on steel guitar with he and Stark wearing leis and dressed in Hawaiian shirts; and “The Dream Isaiah Saw” sung by ISC and the CG singers from the Center Grove High School choir.
The Center Grove Choir, led by choral director Jennifer Dice, is one of this year’s ISC Spotlight Choirs. Outstanding in both technique and artistry, the choir shined in its performance of song from the classic 1954 film “White Christmas.” Deserving of praise for their individual Alicvocal talent and superb harmony was the quartet that sang “Snow.” I see a promising future for all four of the students if they decide to pursue professional singing careers.
Having attended at least five “Festival of Carols,” I now regard it as one of my own personal Christmas traditions and know the holidays would just not be the same without it. This year especially, with all the social and political turmoil rampant in our world, the concert was an ideal escape, not only for its entertainment value but also for its message of peace, hope and love as expressed by artists with voices that are as close as you can get to a heavenly choir here on Earth.
Tickets for “Festival of Carols” range from $21-$46 and may be purchased at indychoir.org or by calling the Palladium box office at (317) 843-3800. $15 student tickets are also available.