IT BEGINS WITH “COMFORT YE” AND ENDS WITH “HALLELUJAH!” by Thomas Putnam
I grew up hearing G. F. Handel's MESSIAH, a lot. My parents were both music teachers and soloists and conductors. The solos and choruses of this work were simply old friends that were a part of our household. Every year now when I finally sit down after all the preparations, and hear a young tenor offer the amazing, embracing sound and words “Comfort ye,” I know where I am...and it's a good place to be.
Along with faithful sponsors Bob and Marsha Chesko, we once again offer a rare opportunity for area residents this Sunday. The Christmas portion of this great choral masterpiece is presented as an opportunity for audience members to sing the choruses and to hear vocalists from Mansfield University singing the solos.
I have experienced such “sing-a-long” events in large cities and found them enormously thrilling.This year Dr. Peggy Dettwiler, director of choral activities at Commonwealth University Mansfield will be directing the event. Marian Miller will be at the keyboard, with string players from the PSU Graduate String Quartet including Allison Smith, Vinicius Vierira, Zephyr Wills, and Ruth Stokes. Soloists are recent graduates or current students from Mansfield University including Rachael Karwowski, soprano; Jessica Strouse, alto; Carter Route, tenor; and Carson J. Witherite, bass.
Audience members are encouraged to sit in vocal sections of soprano, alto, tenor, bass and sing on the choruses. We can provide scores of the work, or you can bring their own. Many audience members choose to sit back and listen to the glorious sounds in the acoustically fine St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
The event began and continues as a benefit for the HG Children's Choral Program. Fittingly, when the MESSIAH was first presented in London in 1743 it too was as a benefit for the newly-opened Foundling Hospital, a home for unwanted children. The HG Treble Choir will present three selections at the beginning of the program. The proceeds help to purchase music and defray expenses for the choir operations. The event is a Pay-What-You-Can event with donations gratefully accepted at the door. Checks can be made payable to HG CHOIRS. No reservations are required.
Comfort ye. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low. Hallelujah!
THIS IS A SHORT AND SWEET BLOG by Barbara Biddison
For those who have been paying attention to what goes on with Hamilton-Gibson Women's Project, I offer this blog inspired by my presence at rehearsals for this show. HOLIDAY SHORTS AND SWEETS, which plays December 8 and 9 in the Warehouse Theatre.
There are three short plays, two of them written by our local women. In one, "A Christmas Tamalada," they make tamales, an annual pre-Christmas family activity--and one that our family participated in some years ago. So, even though my own history centers on the Swedish smorgasbord, I appreciate the value of such a tradition. The other locally written 10-minute play has the engaging title, "The I-Hate-the-Holidays Support Group," And, even though I personally love the holidays now. I find the six who gather for support to be engaging and believable. And the one that was not written by a local woman, features "Rosie the Retired Rockette" and her daughter and her two granddaughters. It is the Women's Project, after all!
And there is music. Nancy Laudermilch on piano here and there throughout. And duets and solos and Pine Pitch A Cappella. Everything from "Baby It's Cold Outside" to "Feliz Navidad."
And I've already written about the "letters." The Christmas letters that tell you more than you need to know, and even one written by the dog.
I can't name everyone that gets credit for this Christmas show. All the directors, and actors, and singers, and writers, and producers, and backstage manager, and lights and sound operator and more. This Womens Project was created because there were so many women who wanted to be part of Hamilton-Gibson. Well over 20 this time. It seems to be working! .
Jean Sings: Rosie Dances by Thomas Putnam
In HGWP'S holiday offering called SHORTS AND SWEETS this weekend, there is a short play called "Rosie the Rockette." It's short, maybe just 10 minutes, and there really isn't much that happens. That being the nature of a ten-minute play, the slice of life that is portrayed is packed with stuff which at first appears to be of no consequence but upon consideration is packed with stuff worth thinking about.
There are three generations: a grandmother Rosie, her daughter, and her two granddaughters. Rosie was a Rockette, a precision dancer. And here she is now, moving in and out of present day consciousness, being visited during the holidays by her daughter and grandchildren. Rosie has dementia.
My own mother, Jean Helen Webster Putnam, had Alzheimers. We kept her at home as long as possible, but finally had to move her into a nursing home, at which she died four months later. On her last night, she sang. She could not carry on a conversation or even speak clearly enough to be understood. She appeared to not know present realities. But she sang. That night in May we sang the songs we used to sing in the car on family trips or when we sat on the front porch of the cottage on summer nights long ago. She sang.
Rosie dances. It's her reality. Ten minute plays can't develop a character much, but in this little play we get a taste of this slice of life quite clearly, and simply. Kathryn Sheneman's Rosie moves in and out of the present that is at times painful for us, as it certainly is for her daughter, and confusing for her grandchildren. There are some funny moments that help us to swallow the difficulty of such a family situation, that for many of us is all too familiar.
SHORTS AND SWEETS if filled with some songs, some readings of holiday letters, and a few other short ten-minute slices of life. From what I've seen in bits of rehearsals, the production is just what it is titled: a bit of this and that, of some sorrow and lots of joy and mirth, of nostalgia and hope. You have just three chances to enjoy this holiday confection so don't tarry in calling for your tickets (570.724.2079.) Friday night at 7:30--with an opening night reception immediately following; and two shows on Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 all at the Warehouse Theatre. (And don't forget the MESSIAH Community Sing on Sunday at 2:30 at St. Paul's which will round out HG's 2023 Season.)