The Chorus of Dorchester sing Christmas Memories

MD-Chorus of Dorchester concert_3x

Dorchester Banner/Gloria Rojas
Cookie Brohawn conducts the Chorus of Dorchester—and the audience—in the Hallelujah Chorus at the DCA Christmas program.

CAMBRIDGE — Seventy soaring voices filled the beautiful, big space of the second floor of the Dorchester Center for the Arts on Tuesday evening. The Chorus of Dorchester, now 40 years old, presented “Christmas Memories,” a program of narrative and song.

The first part of the concert presented a musical biography of Jesus, whose birthday it celebrates. First, all the faithful are invited to the celebration in “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Then, weaving through a narration read by Steve Long, several songs spelled out expectation, the Advent, followed by a lively version of “Mary had a Baby.”

“The Angel’s Carol” is a heavenly celebration but meanwhile, the young mother is contemplating her newborn and like every new mother, must wonder what he will be like, what will he do. So in the poignant number that follows, the chorus asks, ”Mary, did you know?” Much of the music in this first part is new to us and lovely, but no one is surprised.

From its beginning 40 years ago, Cookie Brohawn has been the director who gave this chorus its unusual makeup, a chorus that welcomes anyone who wants to sing. No tryouts, no rejections. Some of the chorus members are trained gifted singers like Alison Rawleigh and Curtis White.
Others have a love for singing, and under the direction of Cookie Brohawn, a slender dynamo who leads the group with graceful power, they all take off. Our friends, our neighbors, create a beautiful harmony in challenging music.

After intermission, the music went in another direction. Do you know what a “mashup” is? I just found out that when you mash the words of Deck the Halls into a piece by Mozart, the resulting “fa-la-las” a la Mozart are a “mashup,” known as Wolfgang’s Christmas Canon. Other familiar songs rounded out the program and the finale, a rousing Hallelujah Chorus from “the Messiah,” managed to recruit much of the audience into the chorus.

The volunteer singers and musical instrument players are definitely a gift to Dorchester and beyond, so it’s fitting that they receive a gift. A new baby grand piano has been on the Chorus’ wish list for a while and last week, not Santa, but the Nathan Foundation came through with a generous donation of the necessary funds. Laura Todd is the pianist for the Chorus and she may sound even better. I don’t see how but she will have the new piano even for practices because it will be housed in the Arts Center, which once was the old Nathan Building. And that’s where the Chorus practices. If you’re interested in joining, Cookie Brohawn says she welcomes everyone. And if she ends up with 50 tenors or 60 altos, she’ll make it work.

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