Photo by Shaun Heffernan/PHOTOPIA
The Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble, led by conductor Andrew Benware, front row, far right, is the latest offering by Hill and Hollow Music, a nonprofit organization based in the town of Saranac.
Though Hill and Hollow Music has been out of the public eye for the past few years, that hasn’t meant the nonprofit organization has been resting on its laurels, says director Angela Brown.
“We took a hiatus at the end of 2009 from presenting concerts and regrouped to start a new program about a year ago, offering a quiet, rural retreat for artists,” said Brown.
The retreat, she said, has been offered for the past year at Weatherwatch Farm in the town of Saranac’s backcountry, giving artists a place to “recharge their batteries in the beauty of the Adirondack.”
“It’s been a place where artists can come and work without distractions in a quiet setting that’s under the radar,” said Brown, referring to the group’s 370-acre farm.
During that time, however, plans to bring together the musical talents of people from across the North Country have formed and resulted in what is now known as the Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble, said Brown. The ensemble, conducted by Andrew Benware, director of choral activities for Saranac Lake High School, is “a mixed chamber choir of professional and amateur singers, all of whom bring extensive previous choral experience to the group,” said Brown. The ensemble’s 20 members represent “a cross-section of the region, hailing from points in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties.”
“Andrew is a wonderful conductor who grew up in Malone. He’s known and loved by a lot of people,” said Brown. “And, the ensemble is made up of people from all over — Plattsburgh, Champlain, Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Keene Valley, Peru — all over.”
The ensemble, also commonly referred to by its acronym, NAVE, has been rehearsing regularly for its two inaugural performances of “A Festival of Lessons and Carols,” which members will perform next month in Plattsburgh and Lake Placid.
“This will be a great program,” said Brown.
The event will follow the traditional model of similar events performed annually on Christmas Eve at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England, since 1928, said Brown. The ensemble will perform a cappella versions of traditional German, Irish and Basque carols such as “In Dulci Jubilo,” “Wexford Carol,” and “Gabriel’s Message,” and familiar Advent and Christmas hymns like “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” and “Joy to the World.”
The vocal performances will be paired with nine short Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments that “trace the story of the fall of humanity and the promise of a Messiah to the birth of Jesus,” added Brown, that will “get everyone in the spirit for Christmas.”
It’s an event she and partner Kellum Smith believe will both entertain and get people reacquainted with the musical offerings by their organization, said Brown.
“Kellum and I are so pleased to be back to our singing roots and the conductor is a real find,” she said. “We are very proud of this group, whose members come from all over the region ... It’s very high quality.”
The concerts are slated for Saturday, Dec. 17, at St. Peter’s Church, 114 Cornelia St., Plattsburgh, and Sunday, Dec. 18, at St. Agnes Church, 169 Hillcrest Ave., Lake Placid. The Dec. 17 performance will begin at 7:30 p.m.; the Dec. 18 performance will begin at 3 p.m. Admission will be a $5 suggested donation to benefit Hill and Hollow Music.
Brown noted the concerts are just the beginning of what Hill and Hollow Music will begin to offer once again for the community and that the artists retreat program will continue.
“We want to keep the retreat going because we feel it serves a wonderful need,” said Brown.
For more information about the upcoming performances by the Northern Adirondack Vocal Ensemble, the artists retreat program and other offerings by Hill and Hollow Music, call 293-7613, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.hillandhollowmusic.org.