"It Takes a Village:" The Wicker Park Choral Singers celebrate their 5th Anniversary


Concert in Wicker Park Lutheran Church


Mark Tomasino stops for a moment during intermission

Inspired by four years of achieving their goals and learning from their mistakes, the Wicker Park Choral Singers (WPCS) chose to use "It Takes a Village" as their 5th Anniversary holiday concert theme, according to Mark Tomasino, Founder and Artistic Director. The concert was held in the Wicker Park Lutheran Church, 2112 N. Hoyne, on Dec. 9, and over the air waves, Live from WFMT, on Dec. 10.

Beginning with a traditional spiritual, Walk Together Children, arranged by Moses Hogan (1957-2003), the concert began. "Through our interpretation, we aim to honor this interpretation, and the piece's history, while telling the story of hope for a better day to come with our modern-day context in mind," states the program's notes.

Dortn, Dortn, arranged by Robert Decormier (b. 1922) and sung in Yiddish transported the audience to a different scene. "…their natural venue was the village, or shtetl, of eastern Europe of America where you could hear them through open windows in courtyards, or from busy people humming, their way from place to place."

Next, the more than century-old timbers of the Wicker Park Lutheran Church vibrated with the familiar music and words of Hark the Herald Angels Sing as the audience participated in the joyful celebration of the season.


Tomasino directs the audience and choir during a sing-a-long

With a Haitian twist, the work of composer Emile Desamours (b. 1941), Noel Ayisyen, the telling of Jesus's birth was told in Creole. One's ears transitioned into the peaceful sounds of Sergei Rachmaninoff's (1873-1943) "Bogoroditse Devo" from Vsenoshchnoye bdeniye, Op. 37, sung in Church Slovanic.

After a sing-along of White Christmas, the story of three drums is told in Twa Tanbour by Sydney Guillaume (b. 1982) and sung in Creole. Like the choral group itself, the story of the drums illustrates that for a team to reach its potential, each member must play his or her part with the whole community in mind.


Listening to the concert from the lobby in consideration of other "villagers," Reba Cafarelli holds Hannah as Maggie holds on to her book and another mom rocks her little one

Described by one concert goer, "The second half of the concert just took you to another place. There were special moments, ethereal and peaceful like being in church." It began with Pueblito, mi Pueblo, by Argentinian Carlos Guastavino (1912-2000), who inspired pop and folk musicians throughout the 1960s. Then, sung in the 800 plus-year-old Swahili language, Wana Baraka, arranged by Shawn L. Kirchner (b. 1970), presented "a joyful celebration of hope and health that appears out on the horizon in a pianissimo, walks boldly forward throughout the song, building momentum, and then spreads an exuberant, fortissimo Alleluia at the end."


Choir members during break


Some choir members check their music while others socialize

The source of the next piece is American composer and writer Ned Rorem (b. 1923). He is, according to the concert notes, "one of today's leading composers of choral and solo vocal music. As famous for his diaries, essays, and letters as for his compositions, Rorem's love of the written word guides and informs his compositions." The composer of Shout the glad Tidings as well as other "church" pieces, Rorem is an atheist. "I believe in Belief, but I have no Belief. Nevertheless, some of my most persuasive music has been settings of so-called sacred texts. I'm drawn to these texts, however, for their poetry, not for their sanctity. Religion, like love, can be as devastating as it is productive," he stated in 1986. 


Jason Carlock, records the concert from the reception room

The Spheres, sung in Latin, is the work of Norwegian Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) and departed from the concept of "community." It is about how we relate to, and how we make sense of, the otherworldly unknown. It is taken from a larger work, Sunrise Mass. Representing the progression from "heaven to earth," Gjeilo describes the floating, overlapping voices and slow progression of harmony in the opening section as having "a sense of floating in space, in darkness and relative silence, surrounded by stars and planets light-years away."


After concert socializing included various "goodies"

The concert ended with It Takes a Village by Joan Szymko (b. 1957) speaks to the theme of the concert and the work of the presenting choir…Unity. As Szymko put it, she sought to embody the concept "that is is truly ALL the individual parts linked and working together that create and support the whole."

Community continued after the concert with a reception where presenters and audiences shared good cheer and conversation.






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