The nave of the church was darkened at St. Mary's Parish , which is just a block off of Main Street, Melrose, Massachusetts, USA. Only the sanctuary and the side aisles glowed as the seated expectant crowd visited quietly with each other and then stopped suddenly. A soprano voice without accompaniment floated in the silence from the rear choir loft. The melodic acclaim to the mother of the baby whose arrival we were celebrating was written in the 12th century. Kathryn Wright, soprano, singing a cappella, held the attention of the audience that filled the Romanesque style house of worship.
When she finished, the lights went up. The entire sanctuary was illuminated as the fifty-two members of the Polymnia Chorus appeared under the creative direction of Conductor James Edward Reyes and accompanied by Terry Halco. Two American carols, written in the 1700s and 1900s, and an African-American spiritual opened the joyful program.
The Melrose Mirror staff in attendance were very proud of the next offering, "See, The Lovely Child is Sleeping," written by one of their staff. She is a local resident, Marjorie Burgess, who was sitting midway in the audience with her family. Later we learned that Marjorie had once been the piano teacher of Mary Rogers, longtime member of the Polymnia Society and organist and choir director at St. Mary's Parish and to whose memory the evening's concert was dedicated.
Drew Macrae, soprano, lent his young, fresh voice to "The Queen of Heaven." This was followed by a rousing rendition of five songs from "Godspell." The arched ceiling came resonantly alive with sound once more. Elaine Steblecki sang "You Are the Light of the World"...a marriage of message and music.
Following an intermission that was filled with sociability among the audience and members of the choral society, the chorus once again took their places. They offered varied rhythms, tones and chords as they sang a Ceremony of Carols, complete with solos by Kathryn Wright, Dan Griscom, tenor, and Drew Macrae and Karen Macrae Reese. The choir was jubilant. Their voices in the last rendition, "Deo Gracias," pronounced again the spirit of holiness that was present.
My notes on the Four Traditional Carols are full of adjectives for the sounds and arrangements being offered...light, lilting, graceful, rich, resonant, harmonious and on and on. Their music and story was plucked from the influences of diverse ages, years and civilizations.
The last two closing carols were anticlimatic and beautifully offered. They caused me to write in my notes:
- Silent Night - organ plays
- Sopranos sing - very professional!
- Men join in for second verse
- We (audience) join in for third verse
- Choir harmonizes with audience
- Oh come, all ye faithful!
- Christmas communion is complete.
January 4, 2002