Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The name has changed, but the holiday concert tradition is the same.
The Columbine Singers, formerly Columbine Chorale, will be presenting their annual concert Saturday. Earlier this year, the group learned they shared a name with a similar group in Denver. When both groups began advertising on National Public Radio's statewide station, KUNC, the Steamboat group was asked to change its name.
The name is the only thing that changed. As in past years, director Cristel Houston pored over the obscure corners of the Christmas carol tradition to create a unique program.
"I do a lot of research," Houston said. "I spend weeks coming up with the program. At the beginning of August, I'm always in a panic. But once I have the songs, the hard part is over."
For this year's performance, Houston chose Christmas music from around the world, including Africa, Israel and the United Kingdom.
"O Come All Ye Faithful" is often listed in song books by its Latin name, "Adeste Fideles" but is always sung in English.
Houston decided to track down and learn the original version.
"I thought it would be cool to know those Latin words," she said. "Now we'll know them forever."
She found a song from Uganda titled "Mwana Wange." To add a more African sound, Houston called African dance instructor Robin Getter and asked for names of area African drummers. A week ago, drummer Pat Nudd joined the performance.
"It really changed the sound," singer Sherry Sullivan said.
If learning songs in Latin and Ugandan wasn't enough, chorale members had Hebrew added to the list.
"Bashana Haba'ah" is a Hebrew song that gives a blessing for the New Year, Houston said.
Chorale members should have been given a break with "The Blessed Child" because it is written in English, but the song is one of the most difficult pieces the group has ever performed, Houston said.
"I like to do a mix of things," she said. "People's ears perk up when they hear something they know, and they enjoy that, but it gets boring if it's all that kind of music."
Sullivan said that she enjoys the challenge.
"I'm always fascinated to see what (Houston) chooses," Sullivan said. "They're not just regular Christmas carols."
She and her husband retired five years ago and moved to Steamboat. She joined the Columbine Singers as a way to meet people and fill her newfound time.
The program can be overwhelming at first, Sullivan said, but each member is given a tape with his or her part on it.
"We have a sight read the first night, and it seems like you are never going to get it," she said. "But after the third or fourth rehearsal, you realize that you know your part."
By concert time, the entire group sings without a book, from memory.
During Saturday's concert, the audience will be invited for a sing along. The sing-along songs will be in English and will include popular songs.