NEMPAC’s Fourth Annual Holiday Concert: Where Professional Performance Meets Youth Education
What a sight – the line of eager concertgoers wrapped around the ramp leading to Saint Leonard’s Church and extended far into the distance. A festive atmosphere filled the church as community members of all ages arrived at the concert venue. The North End Music & Performing Arts Center’s (NEMPAC’s) fourth annual holiday concert wasn’t just sold out – it was standing room only.
Handel’s Messiah Part I began promptly at 7 p.m. with a welcome address from Sherri Snow, NEMPAC’s executive director, who reminded attendees that at this nonprofit organization, “we believe we are all musicians and performers.” The programming to come brought Snow’s message of inclusivity to life, as the concert showed how NEMPAC integrates professional performance and youth education.
NEMPAC put on the evening’s programming in partnership with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Christopher Wilkins, the music director of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, championed the collaboration in his opening remarks when he celebrated NEMPAC as “one of our favorite partners.” Wilkins went on to set the scene for the upcoming programming, reminding concertgoers that “one of the hardest choral pieces in the repertoire” is indeed Messiah.
The programming began with a joyful prelude featuring the 19 vocalists of NEMPAC Youth Choir. Inspired by the musical direction of Alexandra Dietrich, the choir unites young vocalists hailing from Saint John’s Catholic School Honors Choir, The Eliot K-8 Innovation School Choir, and the NEMPAC Winter Concert Choir in community and song.
The angelic voices and the infectious smiles of the youth performers filled the church with holiday cheer and warmth as the choir began its performance with Pat-a-Pan Noël. After performing Il est né, le divin Enfant, which translates to “He is born, the divine infant,” the youth choir performed Silent Night in an energizing synergy with the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.
“I’ve been involved with NEMPAC’s annual holiday concert since its inception,” Dietrich said, reflecting on the youth choir’s performance. “My role has changed from a soloist to having the children perform. It is an honor to see students develop leadership in this community gathering as they grow older and to see the choir take on a large challenge and rise to the occasion. To collaborate with the Landmarks Orchestra is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students and for me.”
Selections from the first part of Messiah followed the prelude as 51 vocalists from One City Choir, a group directed by chorus master Daniel Mahoney, ascended the altar to join the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. Each ensemble’s jovial spirit fed off of the other.
The first part of Messiah also featured stunning performances by four soloists: Junhan Choi, bass, Ethan DePuy, tenor, Emily Marvosh, contralto, and Teresa Wakim, soprano. Choi’s impeccable command of dynamics made for a stately and strong performance. DePuy’s solo featured an expressive and rich timbre.
“The way this event has grown since its inception is really powerful. Our goal is to build community with NEMPAC. NEMPAC means community to me,” DePuy remarked, reflecting on his solo and the programming at large.
Marvosh’s resonant and round sound captivated community members of all ages, and Wakim’s flawless pitch and pure tone enthralled concertgoers. At one point, Marvosh and Wakim performed a duet, showcasing a delightful and playful dance between the contrasts of their two voices.
The kindness and the warmth imparted by the choir and the orchestra’s unified sound reminded community members of the true essence of the holiday season. The sound metaphorically hugged the audience, signaling the intersection of the music and the venue.
The second part of Messiah concluded the evening’s programming, as concertgoers came to their feet to join the chorus in singing Hallelujah. The community and the choir sang in unity with heartfelt gratitude for the togetherness shared that evening.
“It’s an honor to do Messiah with NEMPAC in the North End because it is the kind of community event that this piece was written for. It was written not to be a liturgy, but to be part of a public ceremony. That is what we experienced here. We love our relationship with NEMPAC and look forward to many more years of collaborative music making,” Wilkins said.
What was your favorite moment of NEMPAC’s beloved annual holiday concert?