A choral Christmas illuminates Strathmore and Kennedy Center

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

With seasonal concerts and entertainment peaking in this coming week, the Washington Chorus presents "A Candlelight Christmas," an annual holiday production overflowing with the grandeur of heralding brass, full organ, booming percussion and 180 voices strong.

Music director Julian Wachner leads the chorus, each member with candle in hand, as they process down the aisles of the Strathmore in performances this Thursday and Friday and at the Kennedy Center on Saturday. Like from of the loft of a grand cathedral, these voices proclaim "Joy to the World," "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

"We've been doing Christmas concerts at the Kennedy Center in various forms for decades," noted Executive Director Dianne Peterson."Over the years, we have increased the number of performances ... and have been successful in reaching audiences of around 10,000 during the season."

Not only does this chorus deck the halls each year, it also fills them to capacity.

Onstage
The Washington Chorus: 'A Candlelight Christmas'
» Where: The Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
» When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday
» Info: Call for ticket prices and availability; 410-783-8000; bsomusic.org
Performances also at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall
» Where: 2700 F St. NW
» When: 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday
» Info: $18 to $70; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org

"We just seem to have the right formula -- the magic of the candlelight processional, the theatrical lighting, the mix of carols and sing-alongs and Julian's pacing of the show." Peterson continued. "Plus, there are just some pieces we do every year because our patrons won't let us give them up."

Variety marks the programming, as well. From the solemn opening march to the carol "Once in Royal David's City" to the show's joyous rendition of the "Twelve Days of Christmas," the old, new and seldom sung pieces are laid before audiences like a holiday buffet.

"This year, we have [invited] the Madrigal Singers of Marriotts Ridge High School in Howard County under the direction of Terry Eberhardt," Peterson said. "These 30 singers, all in Victorian costume, are phenomenal!They are singing in all [of the] performances. This is one of the best groups we have ever invited to perform with us!"

Founded in 1961 as the Oratorio Society of Washington, the Washington Chorus in noted for its critically acclaimed performances and recordings of the entire range of choral repertoire. As Christmas draws near, however, it is the music of the season that gathers the revelers together in celebration.

"Our audiences tell us that our concerts are the one thing they do as a family that gets them in the spirit of the season," Peterson said.

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