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Oratorio Society of Virginia dives into songs of the season at the Paramount

The Oratorio Society of Virginia will give Charlottesville-area audience members two opportunities to dive into carols, choral works and seasonal fun.

“Christmas at the Paramount” will be presented at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall. There will be selections for choir, brass and percussion, as well as some a cappella selections. Music director Michael Slon will conduct, as will assistant conductor Miles Jackson, a former student of Slon’s.

The program opens with 90 community singers performing the medieval carol “Personent Hodie,” “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and Morton Lauridsen’s “Sure on This Shining Night.”

The audience will be able to sing along on the English carol “The First Nowell.”

“We perform seasonal holiday music and popular favorites, along with a major work for chorus,” Slon said. Composer John Rutter’s “Gloria” is this year’s selection, and three movements will be performed — “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” “Domine Deus, Rex caelestis” and “Quoniam Tu solus sanctus.”

Slon said that “Gloria,” which Rutter composed in 1974 and published in 1976, helped introduce American audiences to the British composer’s approach to choral harmonies.

“When he wrote it, he was really not known in the United States,” Slon said. “This is one of the pieces that began to establish him as a major choral composer.”

In keeping with tradition, two guest ensembles from the community also will be on hand.

The Patriot Singers from Albemarle High School, conducted by Jennifer Morris, will perform right after intermission at the afternoon concert. Members of the Melichenko family, a musical Ukrainian family that recently moved to the United States, will provide accordion, violin and vocal music in the same spot during the evening performance.

The Oratorio Society singers will sing two pieces a cappella — Paul Echols’ arrangement of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Ives and “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The instrumentalists also will get their own time in the spotlight with Stephen McNeff’s arrangement of “Jingle Bells.”

Fans of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will recognize one of the evening’s sentimental selections. Piano and brass will accompany the singers on “Christmas Time is Here,” a classic Vince Guaraldi/Lee Mendelson song from the perennially popular 1965 animated special.

“Joy!” is Luther Henderson’s gospel arrangement of “Joy to the World.” Henderson, an arranger, composer, orchestrator and pianist, is known for his work on many Broadway musicals.

The program will end with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Tickets are $54, $36 and $29; student get in for $10. Get tickets online at, stop by the box office up to an hour before the show or call (434) 979-1333. It’s also possible to buy livestream access to the 7:30 p.m. concert for $30 per family, $25 per couple or $15 per person.


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