Holiday joy found in opera, musical and candlelight concert

10:30:50 AM CDT - Thursday, November 17, 2005

By Shannon Littlejohn

Between the School of Performing Arts and the School of Music, the holidays hold a promise of fine family fare for the campus and the larger Wichita community.

A longtime holiday favorite of the WSU opera program will return to campus when Opera Kansas and WSU Opera Theatre open "Amahl and the Night Visitors" for a two-performance run Nov. 26-27. Composer Gian Carlo Menotti's Christmas opera is a bonus event for WSU Opera Theatre Series subscribers and will be fully staged with orchestra. It is set to an English libretto by the composer.

"Amahl and the Night Visitors" centers on a poverty-stricken crippled boy and his mother who live humbly in a small hut. Then one evening three kings, traveling with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the newly born Christ child, stop by the hut for warmth and sleep. The rest of the story is a tale of temptation and redemption, love and miracles, surrounded by Menotti's memorable music.

The cast and crew includes College of Fine Arts dean Rodney Miller and students and graduates of WSU's School of Music, as well as local professionals.

Next up, Nov. 30-Dec. 4, is "The 1940s Radio Hour," a musical romp that brings December 1942 back to life. Big band music takes the stage in this play about the backstage drama between the "cavalcade of stars" broadcasting a Christmas show live to the boys overseas during World War II. While the radio broadcast goes on complete with sound effects and commercials love affairs, rivalries and friendships bloom backstage.

The Broadway hit captures the era's pop music and mood with such standards as "The Chattanooga Choo-Choo," "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Nice Work if You Can Get It." It's worth attending for the music alone, but the characters, costuming and capers add up to a great show.

Then, a campus tradition returns with the School of Music's annual candlelight concert Dec. 4 and 5.. For 42 years, the choral department has presented its choirs and singers for this joyous jump into the season. Now in its 43nd year, the Candlelight Christmas Concert features the WSU A Cappella Choir, Women's Choir, Chamber Singers and Madrigal Singers. The concert will also showcase the famous Marcussen organ with seasonal music played by associate professor Robert Town.

This year has something extra to offer, said Tom Wine, director of choirs and associate professor of music education. The concert will feature guest performances by the WSU Percussion Ensemble and students from the WSU dance department.
The Madrigal Singers are preparing a multi-movement work called "A Day for Dancing," Wine said, in which the songs are familiar Christmas carols arranged with unique rhythms and harmonies. Joining the set will be select dancers from the WSU dance department, choreographed by Stephanie Thibeault.

The A Cappella Choir will appear in performance with the WSU Percussion Ensemble in a contemporary piece called "Winter Images," a four-movement work that Wine said makes a dynamic addition to the repertoire for combined voices and mallets.  The piece was composed by a colleague of Percussion Ensemble director J. C. Combs.

The Chamber Singers and Women's Choir will present some holiday favorites, including new arrangements of "Silent Night" and "The Little Drummer Boy."

There is also a "delightfully decadent arrangement of the 12 Days of Christmas," said Wine. "The piece is called 'Christmas Soup' and is filled with snip-its from so many secular songs, it might better be titled 'Everything but the Christmas Sink.'"

The Candlelight Concert will close with the traditional "Personet Hodie" that fills Wiedemann Hall in surround sound with voices, brass and percussion in what has become a true holiday tradition.

WSU Opera Theatre and Opera Kansas will present "Amahl and the Night Visitors" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27 in Miller Concert Hall. Tickets are $9 general admission, with discounts available.
WSU Mainstage and Opera and Musical Theatre will present "The 1940's Radio Hour" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 30-Dec. 3, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 in Wilner Auditorium. Tickets are $15 with discounts available.
WSU's School of Music will present its 43rd Annual Candlelight Christmas Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, and 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, in Wiedemann Recital Hall. Tickets are $6 general admission, with discounts available.
For more information or for tickets for the events, call the College of Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233.

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