Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Music & Shows

Nature Coast Festival Singers prepare for annual Christmas concerts

Twenty years ago, the late Richard and Carol Desautels founded a chorus with a simple goal: to perform Handel's Messiah.

Each year, the chorus would perform a Christmas concert featuring the first half of the well-known piece; the second half was performed during a spring concert.

Although the couple have passed on, their legacy lives through the Nature Coast Festival Singers. The chorus, which features more than 70 voices, continues to sing both a Christmas and spring concert each year.

This year's holiday affair kicks off Sunday at Spring Hill United Church of Christ. A second concert will be Dec. 8 at Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee. The concerts will be dedicated to the memory of the Desautels.

The concerts will include several changes, most notably the lack of music from Messiah. Instead, the concert will feature familiar carols and Christmas favorites, such as O Holy Night and Gloria, with just a taste of Messiah.

"We will have Hallelujah," said Liesl King, the singers' publicity chairwoman. "The concert just wouldn't be the same without it."

King also said this year's concert will feature "some of our very best scholarship alumni winners" — Bethany Barnes and Lauren Albaum, both who have been vocal students of noted voice instructor Roberta Moger.

Barnes, 15, sang with the Nature Coast Children's Chorale from 2008 to 2013 and currently sings with the Gulf Coast Le Petite Choir and Voce de Veta. Among the songs she will perform are Wolcom Yole!, This Little Babe and Spring Carol.

Albaum, who graduated from Land O'Lakes High School and Florida State University, continues to perform throughout the Tampa Bay area. She is vice president of the board of directors for the Tampa Bay Children's Chorus. She will sing Balulalow and will perform a duet of Deo Gracias with Barnes.

Also, at Sunday's concert only, Albaum will perform Pietro Yon's Gesu Bambino. And, at the Dec. 8 concert, Barnes will perform Handel's Rejoice.

But Handel fans need not worry. The chorus will still offer the first half of Messiah, at its "Handel's Messiah — A Community Sing" on Dec. 15 at First United Methodist Church in Hudson.

Now in its third year, the community sing has been extremely popular, drawing more than 60 singers from the Tampa Bay area.

"Last year was incredible," King said. "It drew people from as far away as Sebring. ... It was really quite a good choir that was drawn together. ... Most of them were not from the (festival singers chorus)."

This year's community sing will include orchestral accompaniment, as well as several professional soloists. Those who wish to participate in the community sing are welcome. Two rehearsals have been scheduled, from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 12 and from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 14.

"We invite any members of all the surrounding communities who have previously sung The Messiah to join our performance," King said. "We're expecting a really nice variety of singers."

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