The Santa Clarita Master Chorale began the 2021-22 concert season with its first in-person concerts since 2019.
The Master Chorale on Dec. 12 held “The Glory of the Holidays,” featuring holiday favorites at the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center. Then, on Dec. 13, they held their fifth annual “Messiah Sing-Along” at the Valencia Methodist Church.
Chairman of the group, Larry Wood, said the organization traditionally performs three concerts every year, but last year switched to virtual shows because of COVID-19. The beginning of this season has seen a return to in-person concerts.
The first concert performances featured the Glorias, a short Christian hymn announcing the birth of Jesus Christ. The Master Chorale performed variations of the hymn from Bach, Vivaldi, Argento, Bass, Freed and Beethoven.
The second hour featured a collection of more contemporary holiday favorites, including Christmas spirituals arranged by Stacey Gibbs.
“We had 13 rehearsals prior to our concert,” Wood said. “The theme of the concert was Gloria, so the first half of the concert was a series of nine different Glorias starting with Vivaldi.”
The concert was well-received, and the event organizers were excited that they had more than 300 people in attendance despite vaccination requirements, according to Wood.
“The reception was great, and it was nice to be back and singing together as a group,” Wood said.
Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, the brass players performed 12 feet away from others; This required the brass players to perform in the pit with Plexiglas separating them, according to Wood.
The “Messiah Sing-Along” concert experienced similar safety protocols with no brass allowed in the church performance and attendees were required to wear masks. The event in the previous year was canceled.
The program included oratorios — large music compositions for orchestras, choirs and soloists — by George Frideric Handel. Chorale performances included Shawn Taylor as tenor, Josh Wentz as bass, Katie Mandel as alto and Liliana Castelblanco as soprano.
The conductor and artistic director, Allan Robert Petker, led the orchestra, which included violins, viola, cello, bass and organ.
Handel had various versions and rewrites of his “Messiah” oratorio, which allowed the Master Chorale liberties with Handel’s compositions, due to “the fact that the 13 concerts Handel performed, he would rewrite, especially the different solos they might use, and people would move around,” Petker said.
Some in the audience joined the orchestra in singing, as many in attendance may have sung the traditional oratorio in the past and wanted to participate this year, according to Wood.
“Some of the members of the Santa Clarita Master Chorale are here tonight, but there are quite a few people from the community,” Wood said.
Wood is like many members of the Master Chorale who have professional jobs or other careers and use the group’s events as an outlet to display their musical abilities; only a few in the chorale solely come from professional musician backgrounds.
Wood said he hopes the community feels the spirit of Christmas with the two concerts and knows there is a chorale musical group here in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Grants from Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and private donors help fund the events, and Wood thanked the various donors and attendees of the SCMC events.
“I would like to thank anyone that has ever sung with the chorale or has ever attended one of our concerts,” Wood said. “I would certainly like to thank them for their support.”