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A world of seasonal music

The Bainbridge Chorale stirs up a holiday melting pot in concerts this weekend.

Winter may be about turning inward, hunkering down and accepting horizons that naturally narrow as they follow the available light.

This year’s holiday performance by the Bainbridge Chorale defies all of that.

“This is the most eclectic concert we’ve ever programmed,” music director Anthony Spain said. “The idea was to take expressions of joy from around the world. And we’ve really stretched the net pretty wide.”

After chorale President Eric Fredricks initially came up with the concept of a multicultural program, he, Spain and the chorale’s board began compiling ideas, also soliciting feedback and song suggestions from chorale members themselves.

The result is a program that Spain says the chorale feels invested in but more importantly, loves to sing.

“We’ve had so many comments consistently, week after week, of how great the music is,” Spain said. “And ultimately, that’s got to be the test. It’s great to look around the world, but what does the music look like?”

A smorgasbord, an international cookie basket, a melting pot. The roughly 20 pieces to be performed this weekend in Poulsbo and on Bainbridge span the range of traditional to contemporary and represent Latvia, the Caribbean, Africa, Korea, Israel and many other countries.

They’ve demanded that Spain and the chorale step back not just musically from the traditional Western European and American mode of caroling, but syntactically.

“We’ve been learning a lot of languages,” he said.

Spain notes that it’s not every day choral directors have to guide their singers toward mastering so many different mother tongues. Happily, the group had behind-the-scenes help, in part from Fredricks’ wife, who is Korean, and from another board member’s spouse, who’s Latvian.

They’ll also mix up the singing, with numbers to be performed by guest groups Korean Children Singers and Filharmony as well as the 45 voices of the Bainbridge Chorale Young Singers group in its inaugural concert under the direction of Kathleen Bullivant.

The concert incorporates some local into the global sensibility, with the inclusion of an original work by long-time chorale accompanist, composer, jazz musician and teacher Anne Pell.

When Spain approached Pell last summer about contributing a piece to the concert, she jumped. For starters, she’d always loved Christmas music.

She also knew as a jazz and choir composer, her strength lay in the tune. So in part inspired by the spring choral-jazz collaboration “Last Poem on Earth,” she approached two friends, Abra Bennett and Diane Walker, to start getting some poetry down on paper to compose to.

“The two of them went on this tear and started writing all this stuff,” Pell said. “And then Abra wrote the thing that was clearly the one.”

Pell initially had in mind something “solsticy,” that encompassed not just baby Jesus but family, community and the presence of light during the dark winter season – ideas that, in keeping with the concert’s overall theme, would resonate with everyone.

Once she began working with Bennett’s piece, Pell says “the music just flowed.” And “Now Sing We All Together” became a light, spirited composition that unfolds in 6/8 time with what she calls a “Christ­mas-y lilt,” conveying her sense of joy and gratitude about the holiday’s infusion of light.

Pell’s enthusiasm for the project extended beyond the professional challenge. After eight years as the Bainbridge Chorale’s accompanist, she viewed the composition as a gift, of sorts, a chance to offer up her talent on a larger scale.

“My whole life is making music, and the chorale has been a big part of it,” she said. “And I wanted them to know how much it meant to me.”

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Joie, alegría, gaudium

The Bainbridge Chorale, with appearances by the Korean Children Singers, Filharmony and the Bainbridge Chorale Young Singers, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at Liberty Presbyterian Church in Poulsbo, and at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 and 3 p.m. Dec. 2 at Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church, 11042 Sunrise Drive on Bainbridge. Tickets, $18/$15/$12, are available at Vern’s Winslow Drug, McBride’s Hallmark, Glass Onion and the Bainbridge Pavilion; at the door; and online at www.bainbridgechorale.org.

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