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Springfield Chamber Chorus travels "In the Footsteps of Pilgrims" this weekend

The Springfield Chamber Chorus performs two concerts this weekend under the title "In the Footsteps of Pilgrims."
Photo courtesy Springfield Chamber Singers
The Springfield Chamber Chorus performs two concerts this weekend under the title "In the Footsteps of Pilgrims."

Springfield Chamber Chorus presents a special concert called "In the Footsteps of Pilgrims," featuring guest instrumentalists.

They include pianist Brant Jester; percussionist Spencer Jones; cellist Emilia Sarah; and trumpeter Jim Shannon.

They'll give two performances of the program: in the Atrium of First & Calvary Presbyterian Church, 820 E. Cherry St., across from Hammons Hall, Saturday Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m.; and at, Sunday Dec.18 at 3 p.m. at University Heights Baptist Church, 1010 S. National Ave., across from the Missouri State University campus.

The chorus, under the direction of Artistic Director Christopher Brammer (who also serves as music minister at University Heights Baptist), will perform music by everyone from Palestrina and Victoria to Gloria Estefan and Tim McGraw, along with spoken-word poetry by 13th-century Persian poet and scholar Rumi.

Brammer described the concert for us on “Arts News.”

First, he commended the venues where they will perform, calling the atrium at First & Calvary a “beautiful space, of course, very well decorated for the holidays. And then Sunday afternoon at University Heights (is) also a gorgeous building."

“Every year our favorite concert, of course, is our Christmas concert,” he continued. “(But) this year we've taken a bit of a departure from our normal concert program. While we are primarily an a cappella choir that enjoys singing the classics, this year, we have instead decided to weave together quite the tapestry from pop music to choral music to jazz, with the idea that all of us are journeying in different directions from different places at different times. And what might strike us this holiday season will be different for each one of us, but all of us probably on a journey that ideally ends in the same spot. Part of telling the story of ‘pilgrimage,’ or the story of journey towards self-discovery, is recognizing that this particular season isn't the same for everyone. And so, yes, of course, you will hear some very traditional Christmas music. ‘Oh, Come Emmanuel,’ the ‘Coventry Carol,’ pieces that we expect to hear this time of year. But it's not just about the traditions of the season, it's also about the feelings of the season and being able to sing together and experience music together. And so pieces from traditions that aren't necessarily Christmas, some pop music from Tim McGraw, for example, or Gloria Estefan, as well as some classics like ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ and some gospel pieces as well.”

And some spoken-word passages by Rumi.

Brammer says the concert’s title, “In the Footsteps of Pilgrims,” came about in part because of the shared journey most all of us have experienced during the COVID era, “as we've been moving towards… (a) return to normal, whatever that might be. We've all had to experience very different, very different journeys. And whether that journey (during the pandemic) was intentional, whether we made intentional choices to move our lives in specific directions… or whether those journeys are unintentional journeys that we discover ourselves on, the idea that we all have some way to grow and somewhere to go as a part of that growth, I think is paramount to the human condition. And that's really what we're hoping to move towards this this Christmas, that though we might all be coming from different places, the goal of any ‘pilgrimage’ should be a journey away from separateness and a journey towards unity. And I think that in that unity, in that growth together, in that ‘we’ instead of ‘I,’ is where we truly find the peace that we all, I think, desire at the heart of who we really are.”

While Springfield Chamber Chorus usually performs unaccompanied, this time they will be joined by instrumentalists, according to Brammer.

“We are extraordinarily fortunate to feature four of Springfield's best musicians at the moment," he said. "A very close friend of ours, (pianist) Brant Jester, who is currently pursuing advanced degrees in jazz studies in Kansas City, will be here, and he is really one of the inspirations behind the concert. He is the connective tissue building transitions from piece to piece and really weaving all of these different styles together. He's joined by Jim Shannon, a long time Springfield trumpet player — just a beautiful, beautiful jazz tone, and he's gracing us with a lot of improvisation this this time around. Amelia Sarah on cello, and percussionist extraordinaire Spencer Jones (will) round out the ensemble."

Tickets to either concert are $15 for adults and $5 for children and students. And Brammer notes that both venues have limited seating. The atrium at First and Calvary is “an intimate space, which is one of the reasons why it’s so beautiful this time of year.” And while the Sunday concert takes place in University Heights Baptist’s large sanctuary, seating will be at a premium because for that concert they will be joined by some 90 students from the John Thomas School of Discovery Singers — “and of course, their families will be there as well. That’s going to be incredibly special, kind of a mass-choir event at the end of the concert. And we all know there’s nothing more special than children singing around Christmas. But seating for both performances will be extremely limited. So we encourage folks to come early to grab the best seats possible."

Brammer added, “We're fortunate to be joined by the John Thomas School of Discovery Singers on Sunday afternoon. They're bringing 90 some students to be a part of this performance. And of course, their families will be there as well. That's going to be incredibly special, kind of a mass choir event at the end of the concert. And we all know there's nothing more special than children singing around Christmas, but seating for both performances will be extremely limited. And so we encourage folks to come early to grab the best seats possible. You can absolutely buy tickets in advance on our website at springfieldchamberchorus.org. But tickets will be easily available at the door as well. We're very excited to offer these performances this season and we'd love to see as many folks as possible as a part of that journey with us.”

Brammer concluded by previewing Springfield Chamber Chorus’s plans for 2023.

“2023 is going to be a big year for us as well," he said. "We'll have a spring concert in April, but then it's back to the grindstone. It's convention season for us, and we hope to be invited to perform at several conventions this coming year. And we're putting together quite the program for that as well.”

For information, call Springfield Chamber Singers at 417-818-1931, visit springfieldchamberchorus.org or the Chamber Chorus Facebook page.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning Arts News. Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's Ozzie Award in 2006.