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The Quintessential Sound of Christmas
The Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble will give three performances of a Festival of Lessons
- Friday, December 21 at 7:30 pm at Notre Dame Church in Malone
- Saturday, December 22 at 7:30 pm at St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh
- Sunday, December 23 at 3:00 pm at St. Agnes Church in Lake Placid
The Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble (NAVE), conducted by Andrew Benware, is a mixed chamber choir of professional and amateur singers: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. A small and balanced ensemble to which each member brings extensive previous choral experience, NAVE performs a variety of periods and styles with harmonies of four-to-eight parts.
NAVE’s twenty members represent a cross-section of the Adirondacks, hailing from points in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin Counties. Distinct from other choral groups in our region, NAVE is essentially an a cappella choir focusing on the rich and historical repertoire composed specifically for chamber choir unaccompanied by instruments.
NAVE’s Festival of Lessons and Carols follows the traditional model of those performed annually on Christmas Eve (since 1928) at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. The customary format is built around nine short Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments that trace the story of the fall of humanity and the promise of a Messiah to the birth of Jesus. Anthems, carols, and hymns are liberally interspersed throughout to illuminate the narrative musically.
NAVE’s special a cappella version features two early music masterpieces sung in Latin: the medieval carol dating from the 12th century, “Personent Hodie” (“On This Day Earth Shall Ring”) and the 16th-century renaissance antiphonal motet “Hodie Christus Natus Est” (“Today Christ is Born”) by Jan Pieters Sweelinck. Fast-forward to a pair of contemporary works that have won a place in the constellation of essential Christmas music: “O Magnum Mysterium” (“O Great Mystery) by Morten Lauridsen (1995) and “The Shepherd’s Carol” by Bob Chilcott (2001).
The program includes the well-loved traditional carols “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” “Sans Day Carol,” and “Herefordshire Carol” (respectively Polish, Cornish, and English). Also of interest are Boris Ord’s setting of the 15th-century text “Adam Lay Ybounden” and Harold Darke’s setting of Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” (both were English composers active in the mid-20th century).
Of special note will be the folkish “A Virgin Unspotted” (1778) by the Colonial American composer William Billings and the juicy “Bogoroditsje Djevo” (“Hail Mary”) of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1915), so evocative of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Community members will read the texts, which include passages from Genesis and the Gospels, as well as a contemporary poem, “Annunciation,” by Denise Levertov. The audience is invited to join with the choir in congregational singing – accompanied by the mighty organ! – of familiar Advent and Christmas hymns: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks by Night,” ”As With Gladness Men of Old,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Admission is a suggested donation of $10. For more information please telephone 518-293-7613 or send a message by e-mail to email@example.com
Drew M. Benware is currently the Director of Choral Activities at Saranac Lake High School, where he conducts the Festival Chorus, Concert Choir, Men’s Ensemble, Women’s Ensemble, and teaches small group vocal instruction. He also serves as the Music Director for the annual musical theater production and maintains a small private piano studio. Benware is also the founding Artistic Director and Conductor of the Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble (NAVE), a highly selective chamber choir which operates under the umbrella of Hill and Hollow Music in Saranac, NY.
Additionally, Benware serves as Lecturer in the field of Music Education at the Ithaca College School of Music in Ithaca, NY, where he teaches summer graduate courses in Band Methods and conducts the Summer Graduate Choir and Band. He previously held full-term employment as Assistant Professor of Music Education at the College, instructing wind instrument pedagogy, instrumental conducting, and secondary instrument methods. Additionally, he has supervised student teachers, conducted the Brass Choir and served as a sabbatical leave replacement as conductor of the Concert Band. He also served as accompanist and guest conductor for the Campus Chorale and accompanist and collaborative instructor for the Musical Theater Workshop.
Benware has been a member of the inaugural and subsequent faculties of the Ithaca College Summer Music Academy, an intensive college-preparatory music program at the School of Music where he has held various instructional roles in the fields of conducting, musical theater preparation, music fundamentals, and conducted the selective choral ensemble.
He is a native of Northern New York State where he has served several years as a public school music educator, both as Director of Instrumental Music at Saranac Lake High School and as Director of Choral Activities at the Peru Middle/High School.
Benware is active as a lecturer and clinician, having recently presented at the NYSSMA Winter Conference in Rochester, NY, and is in frequent demand as a guest conductor for honors ensembles (both instrumental and choral) throughout New York State. He is also active as a performer, taking part in the Upstate New York Chorus (UNYC) under the direction of Dr. Janet Galvan, and as a church musician, holding positions at both St. Bernard’s and St. Agnes Catholic Churches in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, respectively. He holds both a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education with a concentration on the Trumpet and a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the Ithaca College School of Music.