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'A Civil War Christmas' Blends Seasonal Vocals, Instrumental Masterpieces

Concert at Unitarian Universalist Church in Wakefield on Dec. 23 highlights the holiday music of 19th Century America.

The following is an announcement from the Standing Room Only Concert Series:

In the Boston area during the Civil War, Christmas trees were a new phenomenon and many of our favorite carols were being penned by local composers.  Nationwide at that time our country faced a divisive split in allegiances, however, that makes this election season look tame. With “A Civil War Christmas” on Sunday, December 23 at 7:30 at the Wakefield UU Church, the Standing Room Only concert series presents music that inspired Americans at our most difficult time to keep the faith - in each other, in the founding principles of the United States, and in the interdependent web of all existence.

The first half opens with “Ashokan Farewell”, the haunting theme from the film series, The Civil War, followed by Mark O’Connor’s similarly styled “Appalachia Waltz”. Next is a medley of spirituals, carols and folk tunes by Jacqueline Schwab, Ken Burns’ pianist and composer from The Civil War. The set ends with a special arrangement of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, the number one hit of 1863 worldwide, and a song with a surprising connection to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield.

In the second half, Wakefield vocal superstars Holly Zagaria and Joe Holmes are joined by Mike Salvatore and Maddie Sifantus as soloists, singing Christmas carols written in the Boston area at this time, and together singing quartets, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”, William Billings’ “Judea”, and Margaret Tucker’s “A German Christmas” that opens with the beloved Austrian carol, “Still, Still, Still.” 

Backed by the New England Festival Strings, carol soloes include “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Cambridge, MA), O Little Town of Bethlehem (by Phillips Brooks, Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts), It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (by Edmund Sears, Unitarian minister in Wayland), and Jingle Bells (by James Lord Pierpont of Medford). An English set written in the 1860’s includes “In the Bleak Midwinter” with music by Gustav Holst and “What Child Is This?” set to the traditional English tune, “Greensleeves”.

Expect Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker excerpts from the orchestra, as well its signature crowd-pleasers, “Holiday for Strings” and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”

As always, tickets are also available online at www.sroconcerts.org; by mail to PO Box 529 Wakefield, MA  01880 (made to “Wakefield UU Church); and at ticket outlets in Wakefield at Parker Florist, 9 Lincoln and Silver Clay, 39 Albion Street.

In connection with the Bicentennial Celebration of the Wakefield UU Church, the fourth season of the Standing Room Only series is titled, “Celebrating America, Sounds That Inspired a Nation.” As the title suggests, the season of concerts is created with music that inspired Americans to grow and prosper at points in our nation’s history. Performances take place in the “classic meeting house with concert hall acoustics” at 326 Main Street in Wakefield, Massachusetts. 

Opening the season on September 22 was “Stars & Stripes”, taking us back 200 years to the War of 1812 with the brand new drum and bugle sound and our Star Spangled Banner, along with the moving music of indigenous and African Americans. After “A Civil War Christmas” on December 23, the New England Tenors return on Valentine’s Day for “Rags to Riches, Love of Music and Motherland”, celebrating a period of multiculturalism and reform a century ago with Ragtime to early jazz, “The Love of the Irish”, and tributes to Enrico Caruso and to Broadway’s biggest star, New England native George M. Cohan . And for the season finale on April 27, 2013, be instantly transported back to a time of energy and promise 50 years ago with the big band sound of Esquivel, the pop/jazz/latin music with a twist that perfectly captures the iconoclastic energy of the topsy-turvy 60’s.

Season IV: Celebrating America: Sounds That Inspired a Nation

Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 7:30pm

Unitarian Universalist Church

326 Main Street, Wakefield, MA 01880

Tickets: $30; $25 seniors 65+ and students

Tickets and subscriptions online at www.sroconcerts.org

Or by mail: SRO/Wakefield UU Church, PO Box 529, Wakefield, MA 01880

Information online at www.sroconcerts.org or by calling 339.203.9366

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