Wrapped in coats, hats, and mittens to ward off the cold, the people of Sisters gather each year for the annual lighting of the community Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. Strains of familiar Christmas carols fill the air as the Sisters High Desert Chorale (SHDC) raise their a cappella voices to lead a singalong for the assembled revelers.
But the tree lighting is only the first of several holiday appearances by the chorale. Two free Christmas concerts are performed every December and have become their own tradition for the Sisters community.
At the two concerts this year, the musical offerings by the 56-member group will include standard carols such as “What Child is This?,” traditional spirituals such as “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy,” and several medleys or variations on a theme of both contemporary songs of the season and familiar carols.
A particularly evocative piece this year sung in Latin is “The Ground,” based on the last movement of the contemporary “Sunrise Mass” (2008) by Norwegian-born composer Ola Gjeilo. Choir director Irene Liden wanted to introduce the chorale to new composers who are living on the West Coast.
“Ola is now residing in Santa Monica, Calif.,” Liden said. “This piece is a vocal dynamic challenge with warm and rich chorale sounds. I like to offer the choir the chance to perform a wide variety of pieces while providing the community the opportunity to hear new and innovative musical compositions.”
In addition to the chorale, the High Desert Bell Choir, directed by Lola Knox, will perform several seasonal offerings. In their public debut, the 17-member Sisters Children’s Choir of kindergarten through second-grade singers, under the guidance of Knox, will sing a few songs. Also slated for the program is the trio, We Three Strings, comprised of violin, viola and cello.
Intermission will offer the audience, usually about 250 at each performance, the opportunity to sample free treats, homemade by choir members, and to chat with friends and neighbors.
Liden, an accomplished opera singer, enjoys watching the process of the choir slowly developing from their first tentative attempts with a new piece into a cohesive unit that makes the music work.
“I believe that creating the music improves the choir members’ sense of well-being and listening to it helps the audience feel better.”
Membership in the chorale, which began when two smaller choirs merged in 2008, is growing beyond just Sisters residents, with members also coming from Crooked River Ranch, Terrebonne, Bend, Redmond and Eagle Crest. It is an all volunteer organization, including Liden’s directing, with members paying a small fee toward music costs and the services of accompanist, Donna Moyer.
After a break following the Christmas concerts, the chorale will resume their Monday evening practices in preparation for their spring concerts in May, which usually include more popular tunes and some musical theater numbers.
There are no auditions to join the choir and being able to read music is not a requirement. A love of singing and ability to carry a tune is all that’s needed. Anyone interested in joining the choir in January may contact Irene Liden at 541-549-1037.