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Music review

Delightful seasonal songs by Arkansas Chamber Singers

By Laura Lynn Brown

This article was published December 13, 2013 at 11:52 p.m.

The Arkansas Chamber Singers Christmas concert sets familiar carols and choral works in a less familiar venue: the acoustically lively House chamber of the Old State House Museum.

Here are some tips on enjoying the largely a cappella concert.

Sit where a tall person will later sit in front of you, so you’ll spend some time focusing on sound instead of sight.

During the opener, the 17th-century “While By My Sheep,” feel some chills that have nothing to do with the cold, rainy weather when (spoiler alert!) the full-bodied singing in front of you is echoed by an antiphonal remnant of four voices behind you.

When they sing “O Magnum Mysterium,” the first of three compositions in Latin, don’t read the English translations in the program. Let the music wash over you, maybe even move you to tears, the way music does like no other art form. Understand more deeply that mysterious sound and sense when you finally read what mystery they’re singing about: the birth of the Lord Jesus.

Be proud of Arkansas’ contributions to the body of serious choral compositions, especially the two pieces by two chorus members that are having their premiere performances in this concert.

Pay attention to the evocative poetry of a third Arkansan’s composition, “A Christmas Tree!”

Recall that old music appreciation class, and admire pianist Tim Allen’s workout, as they warm you up and send you off with “A Musicological Version of the 12 Days,” a witty rendition that echoes every major musical era from Gregorian chant to Sousa.

Sit where an amazingly well-behaved 4-year-old will sit behind you, so you can hear what it’s like to be innocently delighted by this grownup music.

The free concert repeats today Dec 14 at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door. Seating is open, but limited. Doors open an hour before performance. Information: ar-chambersingers.org.

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