PERU - After 43 years of performances, the Keeseville-Peru Ecumenical Choir has become a longstanding holiday tradition in the community.
Once again, the group of volunteer singers has assembled to give residents of Peru, Keeseville, and the surrounding areas a feast for the ears with concerts on Dec. 12 and 13.
For decades, the choir has performed in various churches in the Keeseville-Peru Area. For their 44th season, they will perform at St. John's Catholic Church in Keeseville Dec. 12, and St. Augustine's Catholic Church in Peru Dec. 13. Both concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Conducted by Jeanette Woodruff, the Peru-Keeseville Ecumenical Choir is accompanied by Carol Bachand on piano and Steve Woodruff on organ. French Horn player Andre Gratto will also join in on some songs.
Woodruff takes over for former director Richard Molholsky, who had led the group off and on for over 25 years.
"We expect this year's performance to be equal to that of past years," said choir chairman Ron Goddeau. "We're very grateful for all the years of dedication from Richard Molholsky, and we're very excited about the outcome under our new leadership."
Woodruff is certainly no stranger to the group. She has been involved as an assistant conductor for the past 15 years and has also accompanied the group as part of brass ensembles.
This year's choir features one of the largest groups in the past decade with more than 60 singers; men and women of all ages.
"That's about 12 to 15 people larger than in the last few years," Goddeau said.
Though most of the group's membership hails from either Keeseville or Peru, said Woodruff, some choir members travel from as far as Plattsburgh, Jay, West Chazy, and Willsboro to participate.
The choir performs almost entirely sacred music, but attempts to do a mix of classical adaptations, traditional hymns, and more contemporary pieces.
"The music for the concert this year is more musically challenging than it has been in the past," said Woodruff. "With the increased voices this year, the choir is working harder and experiencing great musical satisfaction with the more difficult repertoire."
Though the repertoire changes each year, the group has become well-known for perennial crowd favorites like Handel's "Hallelujah!" chorus and John Rutter's "Christmas Lullaby."
Woodruff said there are a few new pieces on the program she is especially looking forward to, including "This Christmastide," by Donald Fraser, a piece that has long been associated with Jessye Norman and is also known as "Jessye's Carol."
"Another one of my favorites this year is 'Rejoice and Be Merry,' by John Rutter," said Woodruff. "This is a very majestic piece that is a lot of fun to sing, but also has a great message."
Admission to the concerts are free, though donations are welcome to defray the choir's expenses.