It's MACH's 20th anniversary and we're celebrating! Our Bells of Christmas concerts will feature some best-loved pieces from the past along with exciting new ones that will showcase our ringers' and soloists' talents. MACH's founder and Director Emerita, Dr. Susan Udell, will be conducting the December concerts to bring an air of fun-filled nostalgia and continuing excellence to our programs.
The Bells of Christmas opens with the timely reminder that Christmas is Coming before an array of pieces that unfold the events of Christ's birth. Wake, Awake, a stirring arrangement of Philipp Nicolai's Wachet Auf, is replete with giant chords, flowing passages, and the resonance of bass chimes as the city of Jerusalem is made aware of the Savior's importance. Next, an arrangement of the 17th century French tune Picardy, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, features mysterious random ringing of bells and hand chimes while the melody is intoned. This evolves into a burst of fiery 16th note passages and a maestoso statement of the tune before subsiding into the sound of silence punctuated by random chimes once more. A lively Caribbean tune, The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy, arranged by one of the handbell world's top composers and arrangers, Hart Morris, gives a change of pace with its syncopation and moments of percussive instruments. The noted English composer John Rutter's Angels' Carol follows, sung by our favorite guest vocalist from the past, Carrie Ingebritsen, and our own Rachel Bain; their voices blend beautifully with a liquid handbell accompaniment to give the angels' message from that long-ago night. Another favorite soloist, Barbara Roberts, takes the leading part in an excerpt from Benedetto Marcello's sonata for flute that has been combined in a Gigue with "Forest Green", an alternate tune for "O Little Town of Bethlehem." A bell tree duet of Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella follows, played by MACH members Caitlin Ristow and Karen Paschke. Then it's time for an audience sing-a-long in Christmas Carol Fest III. How Great Our Joy closes the first half of the concert with variations on the carol "While By My Sheep" and then another opportunity for the audience to sing as "Joy to the World" affirms the events that occurred in Bethlehem so long ago.
After a brief intermission, renowned handbell composer Cynthia Dobrinski's arrangement of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day brings sobering and dramatic music that climaxes in a joyful affirmation that, despite all, God will prevail. Carrie Ingebritsen will help illuminate what the music portrays as she sings the verses accompanied by the bells. An energetic Comfort, Comfort Ye My People follows, based on tunes by Louis Bourgeois and G. F. Handel, also arranged by Cynthia Dobrinski. Next, her arrangement of On Christmas Night All Children Sing (Sussex Carol) brings us to a light-hearted celebration of the holiday as seen through the eyes of children. Peter I. Tchaikovsky's famed Nutcracker Suite is then represented as our MACH ringers present a challenging, full-bodied arrangement of its Marche as transcribed by noted handbell composer William Griffin. Former MACH member, Janet Rutkowski, returns as handbell soloist for The Tin Soldier, an amusing rendition of that well-known tune. Then the ever popular Up on the Housetop details the gifts children anticipate at Christmas and depicts Santa's arrival, descent of the chimney, and filling of stockings before he departs in a flash of sound. Our concert concludes with a joyful, foot-stomping Caroler's Hoedown, created and arranged by Valerie Stephenson, who received her graduate degree in composition from the UW-Madison many years ago.
We hope you will join our 20th year's celebration by attending one of our concerts. We will recognize past ringers and Board of Directors members in our programs as a special tribute of thanks for their support over the years.
Advance: Adult is $12; Student (16 & under) / Senior is $9
At the door: Adult is $15; Student (16 & under) / Senior is $12
Advance tickets will be available in late November at Cool Beans Coffee Café, Ward-Brodt Music, Metcalfe's Market at Hilldale, and Orange Tree Imports.
Advance tickets may also be ordered:
"This is my favorite concert of the season! It's just full of joy, playfulness and fun!"
--B. O., Madison singer