With Soli Deo Gloria’s holiday concert, get your imaginary passport ready

Soli Deo Gloria, Fresno’s premier women’s chorale, wants to take you on a road trip.

The holiday-themed concert, titled “Essence of Joy,” will be performed 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at University Presbyterian Church.

But though the physical location is Fresno, music director Julie Carter has put together a program that travels the world in terms of languages and composers.

Take, for example, the opening song, “Hodie Christus Natus Est” by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy.

“We did a piece of hers before, and it’s really great stuff,” Carter says.

Follow that with works by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo (“Ave Maria”) and Argentinian composer Santiago Veros (“O Magnum Mysterium”).


How about spending Christmas in Paris? “Le Sommeil de l’Enfant Jesus (arranged by Ron Jeffers) and “Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle!” (arranged by Sarah Jaysmith) offer a cosmopolitan flair.

“In Dulci Jubilo” takes us to Germany. It’s considered a macaronic text (a mixture of languages), which arose in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages, Carter says. That piece is arranged by Laura Hawley, a favorite of Carter’s and known for her conducting the Elektra Women’s Choir.

The United Kingdom is always a stopover for holiday songs, of course. Soli Deo Gloria delivers with “The Wexford Carol” also arranged by Hawley. John Rutter’s “Mary’s Lullabye” is a famed traditional tune. Later in the evening, “Deck the Halls” represents the Welsh tradition.

We can’t forget about the United States — and especially Fresno. For “Essence of Joy,” the chorale commissioned a piece by Walter Saul, a frequent collaborator with the group and a professor emeritus of music at Fresno Pacific University. He wrote an arrangement of “Ubi Caritas,” based on an ancient Gregorian chant.

And the second half of the concert — which includes a special guest appearance by guest artists Cal-Neva Brass — features a lineup of favorite holiday songs in the U.S. The chorale will perform an intriguing arrangement of “Deck the Halls” in 7/8 time, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and a spiritual by Moses Hogan.

Carter’s goal is to offer a mix of old and new, with an emphasis on fresh takes on the classics and a lot of musical variety. She thinks she’s found that sweet spot with this concert. And a way to put a merry spin on a road trip.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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