Carols in the Church

The Bay Choral Guild, a 40-member group comprised of talented South Bay singers, brings its 'Christmas: Then and Now' concert to Campbell on Friday.

The Bay Choral Guild's annual Christmas performance offers a unique collection of Christmas-carol classics. This year's program, in particular, showcases medieval, Renaissance and contemporary selections, including songs sung in Latin, German, Spanish and Catalan.

From more challenging pieces such as Three Carols by Steve Martland and the pleasant In Dulci Jubilo (which incorporates work from three 16th century composers) to more household choices such as Deck the Halls and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the 2010 concert has enough history, quality and familiarity for the whole family.

"The world is programmed to associate choirs with Christmas," says conductor and artistic director Sanford Dole.

He says it's unfortunate that so many renowned and hard-working musical groups in the Bay Area do not see nearly as much publicity during the rest of the year as they do during the holidays.

"I wish that weren't the case," he says. But, he adds, any support of the arts is a good thing, and Christmas concerts are a wonderful way to enjoy the festive spirit.

A native of Berkeley, Dole is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was a founding member of Chanticleer. After serving as assistant director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus for 10 years, he is now the music director for St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church.

"It's hard," he says of finding time for all his groups—the others being the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra Chorale, of which he is a member, and his own Sanford Dole Ensemble. But he makes it work and even arranged a piece himself for the Bay Choral Guild in this season's concert (Hodie Christus natus est, performed in the second half of the show).

The Bay Choral Guild, founded more than 30 years ago, has undergone a number of incarnations in names—first called the Baroque Choral Guild, then the Cantabile Chorale—and age ranges. Its name now is an affectionate nod toward its roots.

Although the members have sung with brass or piano accompaniment in the past, this year they have chosen to perform entirely a cappella.

"Everybody is serious," says first soprano Patty Fisher, when asked why she decided to become a member. "Sanford is a really challenging conductor—but really fun, too."

The group's CD, Seasons of Christmas, was produced in 2005 and comes with notes and translations of its 18 songs, both Renaissance and contemporary. The CD, along with more history and the guild's upcoming schedule, is available on its website.

"We're always welcoming new people," says Dole with a smile. Auditions are three times a year (before each concert season) by appointment. The chorale is part of the Foothill College Performing Arts Alliance.

Tickets cost $6 for students, $20 for seniors and $25 general admission, and can be purchased here.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, at the Campbell United Methodist Church.

Other performances are 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco; and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Palo Alto.


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