Chorale will get us in the spirit with holiday classics

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By Sara Miller

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti and the 60th anniversary of his classic Christmas opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

This humorous and touching Christmas story was originally commissioned by NBC, and it was the first opera specifically composed for American television. It has been rebroadcast annually since 1951 and remains a seasonal favorite for young and old. The Evergreen Chorale kicks off the holiday season with its production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” along with a celebration of classic holiday songs on Dec. 9.
“Amahl and the Night Visitors” is a one-act opera about a 10-year-old crippled shepherd boy and his mother who receive a visit from the Three Kings following the star as they search for the Christ child. The part of Amahl is shared by two 10-year-old boys in the fifth grade at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen, Ryan Fesenmeyer and Luke Johnson. Both boys are Evergreen Children’s Chorale members who appeared in the recent Chorale production of “Evita.”
“Ryan and Luke are both amazing,” says artistic and musical director Christine Gaudreau. “They each have their own very special talent. One has a brighter voice, and one has a darker voice. We’ve worked to pair them up with actresses who have complementing voices to play the part of the mother.”
The part of Amahl’s mother will be shared by Kimberly Eslinger, who played the Princess in the Chorale’s production of “The Princess of the Pea,” and Hopi Moore-Sargent, a Chorale veteran who is making her return to Center/Stage.
The rest of the theater will be filled with three kings (played by D.J. Himstedt, Paul Ahlquist, and David Burrows and Larry Caine sharing a role), a Page played by DeWayne Baggett and more than 80 singing shepherds who greet the Three Kings with gifts and dancing. The dancing of these spirited shepherds was choreographed by Melissa Trader, and the costumes were made possible thanks to Becky LeClair.
“We are so grateful to Becky. We were able to borrow a large amount of costumes from West Bowles Community Church. But with 80 shepherds, Becky has been sewing costumes for months,” says Gaudreau.
The show opens on Dec. 9, and the 50-minute opera will serve as Act One. For Act Two, the Chorale will perform “Not Even a Mouse,” a concert of seasonal favorites. Audiences will enjoy a visit from Santa and are encouraged to bring a donation to benefit Evergreen Christian Outreach. Donations needed most are non-perishable items like canned fruit, sugar, cereal, refried beans, spaghetti sauce and coffee, to name a few, and personal items like toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and disposable razors. The Chorale is also soliciting donations for unwrapped toys, which will be given to families with children during the holidays.
For more information or to order tickets, visit www.evergreen

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.