Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Concert Preview

Choral Artists Play with Tradition

Guest conductor Todd Craven leads ‘Sounds of the Season’ with seasonal and familiar favorites

By Susan L. Rife, Correspondent
December 20, 2019

‘Sounds of the Season’: Choral Artists of Sarasota. 5 p.m. Sunday, Church of the Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. Tickets $38, $5 students.

Here’s what audiences want at the holidays: Tradition.

That’s what they’ll get at Sunday’s Choral Artists of Sarasota “Sounds of the Season” performance at Church of the Redeemer in downtown Sarasota. Guest conductor Todd Craven will lead 34 singers, a brass and percussion ensemble, an organ and soprano Adelaide Boedecker in a program of traditional Christmas favorites — with a few surprises.

Craven has collaborated with artistic director Joseph Holt to create a program heavy on seasonal and familiar favorites, with just enough new filips to make it fresh.

“I think what Joe and I had in mind was obviously a more traditional kind of concert,” said Craven. “It’s very Judeo-Christian centered and Christmas-carol heavy. We decided to stick a few more interesting and newer things in the first half.”

That will include “Christmas Cantata” by Daniel Pinkham, with “interesting harmonies and rhythms,” and the Sarasota premiere of “Eja! Eja!” by part-time Sarasota resident James Grant.

“Eja! Eja! (Joy! Joy!)” was written in 2005 for the 40th anniversary of the Choral Arts Society of Washington and to commemorate the retirement of Fred Begun, principal timpanist for the National Symphony Orchestra. It combines texts as diverse as poetry by 19th-century English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson and 18th-century student of mysticism John Byram, along with what Craven calls “a little bit of ‘Phantom Menace.’ It’s a well balanced piece with some interesting harmony. It’s a fun romp.”

Jeff Ridgeway, who has performed with the Sarasota Orchestra and Venice Symphony, will be featured as timpani soloist.

Soprano Adelaide Boedecker is well known to Sarasota audiences. She is a native of Sarasota and graduate of the University of Florida and the Eastman School of Music who now pursues a career as an opera singer. In 2019 she appeared as Pamina in “Die Zauberflote” at Sarasota Opera.

The entire second act will be Christmas carols, with arrangements by the late Daniel Moe and Julian Wachner, music director at Trinity Church Wall Street.

Some of those arrangements will have a more contemporary “zing,” said Craven, citing Wachner’s arrangement of “The Snow Lay on the Ground” with “a little bit of a jazz element.”

Craven’s name may be familiar to followers of the Sarasota Orchestra; he was principal trumpet with the orchestra for 12 seasons beginning in 1996. His wife, Laurie Penpraze, was trombonist with the orchestra. The couple left Sarasota three years ago when Craven was bitten by the conducting bug. He served as associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and now is living in Baltimore and developing his conducting career.

He cut his teeth on choral conducting under Ann Stephenson-Moe, organist choirmaster at Redeemer, who will be performing in the concert.

“Working with voices, it’s definitely different,” he said. “I enjoy it because you tend to have more of a visceral connection, more eye contact.”