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Master Chorale brings 'Joy of Christmas'
Two-concert series set for this weekend in Yuba City, Marysville
'The Joy of Christmas'
TIMES: 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Saturday at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 1390 Franklin Road, Yuba City; Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, 1945 Sampson St., Marysville
TICKETS: $5 and $10
Dedicated to their founder Joaquina Johnson, who died earlier this year, the Yuba Sutter Master Chorale will present "The Joy of Christmas" this weekend.
Directed by Kathryn Donovan of Yuba City, the two-concert series will be staged in Yuba City on Saturday and Marysville on Sunday.
"Joaquina was the founder of the group; it's made up of people who love her. We are all kind of feeling our way through missing her, and we definitely wanted to do something special for her. Knowing that the Christmas season was one of her favorite times of the year, we thought it was appropriate to dedicate our first concert without her to her," Donovan said.
She said the audience will find "Betelehemu," a Nigerian Christmas song, "a little bit different than what the chorale normally does. It's exciting to do something multicultural that's not the normal Christmas carols that you usually hear."
"A La Nanita Nana," a Spanish carol, Donovan said, "is very special, I think, because Joaquina had already chosen it to do on the program.
"When she talked with me in her last weeks, she talked about how every music piece is a journey and that I would be going on this journey as we learn the music together.
"And it really has been a journey for all of us. Being without her — because there is a big hole — but then again, we all still feel her presence as we do music together. And that's what she would have wanted," Donovan said.
The program includes "Psallite," arranged by John Leavitt; "Roundelay Noel" by Joyce Merman and Gordon Young; "Saint Nicolas Mass" by Franz Joseph Haydn; "While By My Sheep," arranged by Hugo Jungst; "Gaudete!" arranged by Mark Burrows; and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" featuring dancers from Jacque's Dance Expressions.
Vocal soloists include Kelly Barber Cunningham, soprano; Joyce Campbell, alto; Thor Campbell, baritone; Bronwyn Eisermann, alto; Kenneth J. Pereira, baritone; Daphanne Peters, soprano; and Aaron Scheidel, tenor.
Accompaniment is provided by Richard Altenbach and Kristen Autry, violin; Liz Barton and Charlene Mayes, French horn; Murray Campbell and Michelle Gunvordahl, oboe; Rob Hilton, percussion; Charlotte Reese, cello; and David Thorp, viola.
Donovan said that stepping up to lead the chorale presented her with some "big shoes to fill, but I've been a student of Joaquina's since I was 17 years old.
"She had been prepping me for years, saying she would really like me to do this in the future. So when it came down to it, I wanted to carry the torch that she had lit in our community and to give back and keep her memory going as well," Donovan said.
"I think it was appropriate for her to choose somebody who grew up in the community and has been a lifelong student of hers. The way I teach, I learned from her. So I think it translates well with the other members of the chorale," she said.
Donovan, a graduate of Yuba City High School, Yuba College and San Jose State, said she has taught choral music for about 20 years, first in the Bay Area and for the last 12 years in Folsom Cordova Unified School District northeast of Sacramento.
Donovan she started playing the flute in the fifth grade. "I always wanted to teach music. Joaquina tried to veer me toward performing — and I still perform, but teaching was kind of my calling, as it was for Joaquina, too.
"She was a performer and a teacher. So there are a lot of parallels to our lives. It's very interesting," Donovan said.
Growing up in Yuba City, Donovan said she was influenced by many of her music teachers, including Dean Estabrook at YCHS and David Coe at Franklin School.
"It's fun because now they see me — I was once the kid, and now I'm taking over a bigger responsibility. That's how life progresses. And someone will do the same for me when the time comes," Donovan said.
"I think if you want to feel in the spirit of the season and the season of Christmas, you would definitely capture that in these concerts because we have beautiful music, a great orchestra and dancers as well.
"It's very eclectic in what you will hear and see."