Chorale to perform holiday concert

The Greenwood Chorale has resurrected itself for a holiday concert, this time under the direction of Nativity Episcopal Church’s music director, David Williamson.

The Chorale, which debuted in Greenwood in May 2011, was founded by Ray Smithee of First Presbyterian Church to provide an outlet for singers interested in learning a challenging musical repertoire.

The initial choir was made up of 27 members and has both increased and decreased in size over the years.

Smithee decided to take a break from directing following the chorale’s patriotic concert during the summer of 2016, and last year there was no holiday concert.

But this year, stalwarts have returned and are tackling a challenging range of music with everything from a comical take on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to a complex composition by composer Benjamin Britten, “Hymn to the Virgin,” first performed in 1931 and written when Britten was just a teenager, according to Williamson.

Traditional favorites will include “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, and a medley of Irving Berlin Christmas melodies.

“Paul Brown and I just picked some of our favorites, a sacred and secular mix,” Williamson said.

Brown, the organist at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, will sing in the program along with some 20 others.

Four singers have been driving from Indianola to practice, Williamson said, and one lives as far away as Lake Village, Arkansas. Another is a church musician in Cleveland.

“We’ve been working on the music since late August,” he said.

At last Tuesday’s rehearsal, the chorale mixed seriousness with silliness as the members ran through the program.

They sang:
On the second day after Christmas,
I pulled on the rubber gloves
And gently wrung the necks of
Two turtle doves.

“Pretty darn good,” said Williamson. “Let’s get all our nonsense out.”

Frederick Silver’s parody, “The Twelve Days After Christmas,” provides plenty of opportunity for that.

On a more formal note, the choir tackled Gustav Holst’s “Christmas Day,” a fantasy on old carols, including “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” with precise harmonies and a piercing soprano solo by chorale member Emily Shafer.

Williamson, who has conducted and played church music for more than 30 years across the Delta and in Memphis, brings both humor and vast musical knowledge to the mix of voices.

Before the singers departed on Tuesday, he warned them.

“Y’all remember between now and next week, stay away from strangers and children. They have germs!”

Facebook notices throughout the week have identified at least two members who’ve come down with viruses but should be recovered by concert time.

Doors to the parish hall at Episcopal Church of the Nativity, 400 Howard St., will open before the first number, scheduled for 7 p.m. The concert is free, and the public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Contact Kathryn Eastburn at 581-7235 or