By Jessie Levine
Special to the Palisades News
Conductor Sue Fink and the Angel City Chorale (ACC) have had a busy and productive 2016, culminating in their joyous holiday concert and sing-along on Dec. 3-4 at the Wilshire United Methodist Church.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles-based chorale’s moving rendition of Toto’s “Africa” went viral, with more than 3.6 million views to date. ACC also had the distinct honor to collaborate with renowned composer Christopher Tin, performing in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This holiday concert tied a festive bow on ACC’s eventful year.
The chorale is composed of more than 160 singers and is led by Fink, its founder and conductor. Members include five Pacific Palisades residents: Marian Niles, Harry Eden, Cheryl Robinson, Julia Chang and Adam Wolman.
For the annual holiday concert, singers from all walks of life joined together at the Wilshire United Methodist Church, dressed in formal black. Lit by the festive red glow of the church lights, Fink took a commanding position at the front of the choir. A wave of quiet formality fell over the audience.
With vivacity and spunk, Fink remarked: “So quiet!” And the layer of separation be- tween the singers and the hushed audience was effectively penetrated.
She raised her baton and members of the chorale filtered onto the stage from the wings in the opening song, “Christmas Day” by Gustav Holst. The cavernous church filled with song.
The world premiere of “The Feast of Snow,” by Philip White, featured a harmonious introduction from the string section, with Adam Wolman on bass. The voice of the soloist, soprano Lindsay Schwartz, was crystal clear over the string ensemble.
The fourth and fifth numbers began the Hanukkah Cantata by David Ludwig, a trio of beautiful songs sung in both Hebrew and English, followed by the first sing- along number, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The lines between performers and audience continued to blur as Fink enthusiastically conducted different sections of the crowd in song.
The standout in the first act, and perhaps the show, was “Gaudete!”— a ladies-only number with words and music from Piae Cantiones, circa 1582. The energy was pal- pable as the light, twinkling feminine voices layered atop the resounding bass of the drums. This stellar number was followed by “Huron Carol,” Canada’s oldest Christmas carol, sung by the men of the group. The final number of the first act was “A World of Joy,” in which the group demonstrated its range by performing first in the style of traditional African music, followed by Irish folk tune.
After intermission, a soulful Pentatonix arrangement of “Mary Did You Know” enlivened the crowd, and prepared them for the sing-along to “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”
Fink paused the performance to ac- knowledge the recent passing of Margaret Day, an advisor to ACC, then dedicated “Agnus Dei” to her. The strong and full-bodied voice of Tom O’Neill filled the church and the audience was noticeably awed.
The standout of the second act was a stunning gospel performance of “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” in which the horn section and the soloists particularly shone. The exultant, swaying piece of music was performed beautifully, and the audience responded accordingly. The final act was “Silent Night” and the chorus exited as it entered: through the wings and aisles of the church, enveloping the crowd in beautiful music.
Fink closed with remarks about “celebrating diversity” and “finding joy in collaboration.” The final message of the performance is that music is something that brings people together in joy and triumph: a message that won’t be soon forgotten.
ACC was established in 1993 at the world-famous McCabe’s Guitar Shop with 18 singers. New singers are admitted to the chorale by audition, and practices are held once a week with higher frequency as concerts approach. Annual concerts occur the first week of June and the first week of December, in addition to other scheduled shows and traveling. Right now, the next scheduled show is in June.
Visit angelcitychorale.org for more information.