Vespers concerts to start holiday season on all the right notes

Jazz Vespers returns as Holiday Vespers adds third performance

Age-old traditions will blend with new-age renditions and be-bop conventions during Kansas University's Vespers extended weekend.

After a well-received inaugural year, Jazz Vespers returns to the Lied Center to entertain holiday hep cats on Thursday evening. Then a 79-year tradition continues Saturday and Dec. 7 with Holiday Vespers, KU's annual holiday instrumental and vocal concert. Pre-Vespers organ recitals in Bales Organ Recital Hall will warm up audiences prior to the two Sunday performances.

Jazz Vespers features KU Jazz Ensemble I, KU's top student big band, and several special guest soloists and ensembles playing rare jazz numbers and unique arrangements of familiar holiday tunes.

The organ recitals, scheduled to begin an hour before the 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Holiday Vespers performances, will showcase organist Tandy C. Reussner and several young Lawrence vocalists.

Holiday Vespers unites 250 singers, the KU Symphony Orchestra, the First United Methodist Church Celebration Ringers and Random Harmony, a noted men's vocal quartet. And the performances wouldn't be complete without the audience joining in for a few carols.

The Jazz Vespers audience will hear music from two landmark 1962 jazz recordings: the Stan Kenton Orchestra's recording of "A Merry Christmas" on Capitol Records and selections from "Jingle Bell Jazz" on Columbia Records. Recorded in 1962, "A Merry Christmas" has been out of print for years and is highly prized by record collectors. Blue Note Records re-released it in the fall of 2003.

The program also will feature Vince Gnojek, KU professor of saxophone, on soprano saxophone; Genaro Mendez, assistant professor of voice, singing tenor; the Kansas Brass Quintet, KU's faculty brass ensemble-in-residence; and the KU Jazz Singers, a seven-voice a cappella student vocal jazz group. Chuck Berg, head of film studies at KU and noted jazz critic, will be master of ceremonies.

On Saturday and Sunday, the KU Symphony Orchestra, directed by Nicholas Uljanov, will begin Holiday Vespers with "Polonaise" from Eugenen Onegin, by Piotr Tchaikovsky. Then the audience will be treated to the stereo-surround-sound effect of the KU Symphonic Choir singing in the aisles and on both balcony levels. The performance then takes to the stage. Program highlights include "O Come All Ye Faithful" by J.F. Wade, arranged by John Rutter; "And the Glory of the Lord from Messiah" by G.F. Handel; and "Zum Gali," an Israeli folk tune, arranged by Maurice Goldman.

The pre-Vespers organ recitals Sunday will include carols sung by fifth-graders Rachel Heeb, Kaitlin McKinney and Liesel Reussner. Heeb and Reussner attend Quail Run School, and McKinney goes to Deerfield School. Hannah Reussner, a first-grader at Quail Run, will introduce musical selections through song.

Anticipated selections include "For Unto Us A Child Is Born" and "Hallelujah Chorus," by George Frideric Handel; Bach's "In Dulci Jubilo"; and "The Little Drummer Boy" by Katherine Davis and arranged by Reussner.


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