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The Lafayette choirs will present their annual Winter Concert and Carol-Sing 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Williams Center for the Arts. The concert is free and open to the public.

Nina Gilbert, director of choral activities, will lead the 75-voice Concert Choir and 17-voice Madrigal Singers. Stephani Bell will direct the orchestra and Ken Brader will direct the brass ensemble.

This year’s selections represent a variety of cultures, with songs presented in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Gilbert chose these pieces to prepare the choir members for their upcoming January interim session in Spain and Portugal as part of the course Choral Music: Window to Culture. Students will perform with local choirs at church services and concerts, and they will study history, culture, religion, architecture, and language of the region.

“We have two reasons for singing music from the countries on our tour,” Gilbert explains. “First, our audiences will appreciate it. Second, we can glean useful vocabulary from some of our songs. We’re learning songs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese from the Old and New Worlds, so there are South American pieces too.”

The choirs are premiering a piece composed specifically for them by Maxim Vladimiroff, one of Gilbert’s former students. “Stars Falling” also features words that are a poem by Jay Parini ’70. It is the first in a set of three Vladimiroff-Parini works the choirs will debut this school year. Marquis Scholar Tim Zirkel ’08 (Honey Brook, Pa.), a mathematics major, will conduct this piece at the Winter Concert and during the interim tour.

Concert Choir will perform another unique piece, “Chitarra d’amor” (“Guitar of Love”), which is sung in Italian but has a Spanish tango sound. Lafayette’s choirs received permission to perform the piece directly from arranger Daryl Runswick, making them the only choir allowed to sing this version.

“We have a recent tradition of performing historical pop music, and ‘Chitarra d’amor’ is part of that,” says Gilbert. “It comes from the repertoire of the Comedian Harmonists in Germany in the 1930s. Our version comes from the King’s Singers and has never been published.”

The concert also will include Gilbert’s own arrangement of “Silent Night,” featuring Marquis Scholar Allison Shapp ’08 (Plainview, N.Y.) on flute.

Other Concert Choir selections include “Bye Bye Blues,” a barbershop song for the men’s choir; “Carol of the Carols,” a medley that quotes 46 carols in two minutes and allows audience participation; “Gaudeamus igitur,” an international student anthem in Latin, English, Spanish, and Portuguese; Sarah Hopkins’ “Past Life Melodies,” which Gilbert chose to celebrate the European cathedrals in which the choirs will perform during the interim; “Perspice Christicola,” a summer canon in Latin; Amy Scurria’s “Salmo 100,” in Portuguese; Ernani Aguiar’s “Salmo 150,” in Portuguese; “Soon-ah will be done,” a spiritual arranged by William Dawson; “Wake ev’ry breath” by colonial American composer William Billings; and Samuel Adler’s “The Steps to Wisdom,” which the choir performed at the inauguration of Lafayette President Dan Weiss.

The Madrigal Singers will perform “In monte Oliveti” (“At the Mount of Olives”) by Portuguese composer Francisco Martins; “O sapo,” a Brazilian folk song about a frog; “Meerfay” (“Mermaid”), a German piece by Robert Schumann for the women’s choir; “The Long Day Closes” by Arthur Sullivan for the men’s choir; and George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You/Te abrazo” with a vocal jazz arrangement by Steve Zegree and Spanish translation by Johnnie Camacho.

The Carol-Sing at the reception after the concert will feature traditional carols, including “O, Holy Night,” “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” “The First Noel,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” and “What Child is This.”

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