Ketchikan Community Chorus polishes holiday concert

Ketchikan Community Chorus rehearses for a “European Noel” themed holiday special on Tuesday at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

While Ketchikan is a vibrant community with plenty of musical talent, it never hurts to bring sounds from around the world a little closer to home.

The Ketchikan Community Chorus produces a holiday special every December, and this year the theme is “European Noel.”

KCC director Steve Kinney told the Daily News that the idea for a holiday performance rooted in European music came to him this summer.

“I was at a family gathering this summer and ran into a book and a CD – it was a Christmas program by a similar name (to “European Noel”) – and that spawned the idea that, 'Oh, that'll be a good thing to do,'” Kinney explained.

After finding this inspiration, Kinney proposed the idea to the chorus, which this year he estimates is made up of 30 or more voices, not including those who work behind-the-scenes on sets and costumes.

The idea was approved by a board of around 12 chorus representatives. After the approval, Kinney and the community chorus had to find the music for the show and decide on the sets and costumes.

“I wanted to find music, for the most part, that was familiar, so that people (would think), 'Oh, I recognize that, I know that song,' (or) 'Oh, that's where that song came from,'” Kinney said. “And so the songs that we attribute to France or Spain or England or wherever, were thought to originate there.”

The concert will feature songs from eight different European countries and will be a “multi-sensory experience,” according to a flyer for the event.

Food from the different countries will be served during the concert.

“The audience will be greeted by representatives from England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland and Russia, each introducing the listener to the music and customs enjoyed at their celebrations,” read the flyer. “During the introduction of each culture, special attention will be given to one or more unusual aspects of Christmas in that country. The music will be presented in both the native tongue and in English so enjoyment can be experienced both from the music of the language and the meaning of the worlds.”

Kinney said that there was a good combination of familiar music and new tunes in the concert this year.

He said that songs like “O, Holy Night,” “Angels We Heard on High,” “O, Christmas Tree” and “Silent Night” will be familiar to much of the audience.

“So, these are some that are probably in everyone's mind,” he said. “There are some that are totally new to us.”

The songs selected to represent England include “O Come All Ye Faithful,” O Holy Night” and “I Saw Three Ships.”

There also will be three French songs: “Allon Gay Bergeres,” “Touro, Louro, Louro” and “March of the Kings.”

The numbers inspired by Spain include “Naanita Lullaby,” “Riu, Riu, Chiu” and “Fum, Fum, Fum.”

There will be two German songs, “Kling Glockhen” and “O Tannenbaum,” and also two Austrian songs, “Silent Night” and “Still, Still.”

The country of Poland will be represented by “Totus Tuus.”

The sole Russian arrangement will be the song “Salvation is Created.”

“The arrangements that we're using are different,” Kinney said. “They're not necessarily authentic cultural arrangements of these (songs). They just hit my fancy and I thought, 'Oh, that would be fun to do.'”

Kinney himself decided on which countries to include in the concert.

He said the music that was chosen for each country represents two “extremes.”

“(It's) always trying to balance a classical sound, a heavy sound, a formal sound to the chorus, with lightweight, happy, bouncy kinds of songs,” he explained. “So this concert has that whole range of different kinds of songs within it.”

Kinney believes that “at least there's one (song) in there that will appeal to everyone.”

“We've learned a lot by doing this,” Kinney said.

The first concert will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Ketchikan Presbyterian Church on Second Avenue. A second performance will be held at 2 p.m. on Dec. 8.

Tickets are available from the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council, at the Celebration Station, and the Tongass Avenue restaurant “Skylar's Table.