The Jefferson City Cantorum's Christmas concert is one of the, if not the first, community holiday concerts held each year in Jefferson City.
"When the Cantorum was founded, our very first concert was a Christmas concert. We started off singing at hospitals during the Christmas season," said Nancy Waggoner, Cantorum executive director and alto in the 57-member ensemble. "Many people who attend our concerts claim it as the official start of the Christmas season."
For its 51st Christmas concert, the Cantorum aptly named its 2018 show "Greeting the Season" at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Miller Performing Arts Center, 501 Madison St.
A variety of songs were selected ranging from upbeat to slow and familiar to new, Waggoner said.
"'Wishes and Candles' is just beautiful, and we are doing 'My Heart Goes Home for Christmas,' which is brand new," she said. "We also have new arrangements of songs like 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' and 'The First Noel' by (composer) Dan Forrest. The arrangements are so rich, adding a lot of emotion to the music."
Other seasonal tunes included in the performance are "Christmas Lullaby," "Everywhere I go," "I Saw Three Ships" and "What Shall We Give?" The concert will also highlight many fun, familiar pieces including "Skatin' With My Baby," "Jingle Bells" and a "song from Hawaii" with an entertaining surprise, Waggoner said.
Musical director Suzanne Barner Kitchen will lead the Cantorum's 60 singers. Some songs will include instrumentalists from the Jefferson City Symphony Orchestra and others will feature string bassist Bonnie Verdot and percussionist Matt Musselman. Harpist Janna Volmert will perform on "Wolcum Yole!" and "Wishes and Candles," and Cantorum member Millie McCleary will play clarinet on "Fum, Fum, Fum." A string quartet comprised of Volmert, Shae Uthe, Janet Mengwasser and Greg Spillman will perform during "O Come, All Ye Faithful."
"Also during 'O Come, All Ye Faithful,' our piano accompanist, Jan Houser, and her student, Abbie Chaney, will do a four-handed piano," Waggoner said, noting additional students will also play in the atrium beginning at 6 p.m. when the doors open. "They do a variety of Christmas theme songs and everyone enjoys them. Jan is very proud of her students."
As in the last few years, the audience will be able to sing along with the Cantorum during two songs, "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Good Christians All, Rejoice" this year.
"We love getting the audience involved and enjoy hearing them participate," Waggoner said. "There is something for the whole family at this concert."
Coming from across Mid-Missouri, the Cantorum performs in other avenues, having sung with the St. Louis, Kansas City and Jefferson City symphonies, Jefferson City Jays Jazz Band, Lincoln University Choir, and Helias and Westminster choirs. They also have performed at The Royal Theatre in Versailles, the Governor's Mansion, on the steps of the Capitol during Independence Day celebrations, and in the Cork International Choral and Dance Festival in 1983 in Ireland, where they won the prestigious Heinrich Schuetz Memorial Trophy.
"We've performed stage shows and operettas, sung for dedications, celebrations for civic groups and conventions as well as other community events," said Waggoner, who shared that the Cantorum was founded in 1967 by J. Patrick Healey and Grayson Peters. Originally a mixed doubles quartet, it grew into a choral group. "Since 1967, over 600 singers have sung with the Cantorum."
The Cantorum is also looking for new singers, with auditions for its May 4 spring concert held soon after the holidays. Waggoner said those auditions, available to singers in high school and older, will be 8-9:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and 24 at First Baptist Church, where the Cantorum rehearses every Thursday during the same time. Contact Waggoner or visit the website to set up a time to audition.
Tickets for the "Greetings the Season" Christmas concert cost $10 for adults, $5 for youth (18 and younger) and $8 for seniors (ages 65 and older). A group ticket for a family of three to five is $25. Tickets purchased the evening of the performance are $2 more. They are available at Samuel's Tuxedos and Gifts, Central Bank West, Hawthorn Bank East, Capital Music, from Cantorum members or at the door the evening of the concert.
For more information, contact Waggoner at 573-230-2715 or visit jeffersoncitycantorum.com.