As a child, there were a few traditions that made the holidays magical. I remember being 4 years old and walking into my community’s church for the Christmas Eve Service. The massive organ pipes bellowed out sounds that I thought were only created in my dreams and the choir, dressed in the most elegant, black attire, stood at the front of the church with a humbled presence. The Minister in his glorious gown commanded respect as he spoke his beautiful words of wisdom and hope. The modest decorations were illuminated by the stained glass windows and the deep, rich woods of the pulpit. The impressive grandeur of it all was coupled with the angelic voices of the choir and the attendees. I never imagined I would re-experience that magnificent beauty and awe that I witnessed as a child; after all, everything seems more magical and over-whelming through the eyes of a child. Last night, an over-flow of powerful emotions was erected inside of me as I entered the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and took part in the Pacific Chorale’s Christmas concert, Tis the Season! An annual tradition for Southern California audiences, Pacific Chorale’s annual Tis the Season! concert features Pacific Chorale, the Southern California Children’s Chorus, and members of Pacific Symphony in the favorite selections from John Alexander’s years of holiday programs. To celebrate this anniversary year, John Alexander has chosen audience favorites from the last 40 years of Christmas concerts he has conducted, making this year’s concert one that evoked emotion and my fondest memories of Christmas. As I sat in the audience, I was transported back to my childhood and engulfed in the visual and auditory beauty that surrounded me.
The Concert Hall recreated the wide-eyed feelings I beseeched as a 4-year-old child. The Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall houses a serpentine glass façade, a multi-tiered lobby with Spanish granite and carpeting, and a silver leaf ceiling. The seating is upholstered in scarlet red velvet surrounded by individual boxes, three silver leaf acoustical canopies, and Canadian maple veneers. The performance platform makes use of four reverberation chambers, 128 concrete and wood doors to adjust the volume of the space and reverberation time, three adjustable acoustical canopies, and draperies in the hall. I stood in amazement when I entered the doors and my eyes grew wild with bewilderment. Segerstrom Concert Hall is where Peter Pan would be reintroduced to childhood.
The Pacific Chorale gave a demonstration of what 40 years of tradition sounds like and it was, in a word, fantastic. The event paid tribute to its director of 40 years, John Alexander, who was on the podium. Alexander’s long and distinguished career has encompassed conducting hundreds of choral and orchestral performances nationally and in 27 countries around the globe, but it was the ease of his presence in such a demanding, controlled environment that astounded the audience. From his glowing, smiling face to his Christmas colored socks, has passion and dedication as an Artistic Director was evident.
The 140-voice Chorale belied its size with the flexibility of its phrasing and the intimacy of its expression. I was delighted in the group’s a cappella singing when the elegant blend and silken vibrancy it produced created a wondrous, magical sound. They performed with unity, clarity, and balance. O Come, O Come Emmanuel brought tears of joy to my eyes and the comical yet balanced rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas was a musical treat for my heart. Silent Night returned me to the church of my memory as a 4-year-old and reminded me of my ever-growing, beautiful family that I will cherish for life.
With Pacific Chorale, Pacific Symphony, and the Southern California Children’s Chorus, Tis the Season delivered a Christmas stocking full of seasonal classics and delightful discoveries to the young and young-at-heart alike. I am alive with the Christmas Spirit and renewed with my faith in tradition.
You can read more about Pacific Chorale and their up-coming concerts at http://www.pacificchorale.org/concerts_and_events/season_concerts_and_tickets.php.
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