Northwest Choral Society to present annual Christmas concert in Arlington Heights

Northwest Choral Society to present annual Christmas concert in Arlington Heights

  • Artistic Director Tom Colao conducts the Northwest Choral Society's spring 2022 concert at St. Raymond de Penafort Church in Mount Prospect.

    Artistic Director Tom Colao conducts the Northwest Choral Society's spring 2022 concert at St. Raymond de Penafort Church in Mount Prospect. Courtesy of Northwest Choral Society

Submitted by Penny Perles
Updated 11/30/2022 11:56 AM

The Northwest Choral Society will present its 57th annual Christmas concert at 4 p.m. n Sunday, Dec. 4, at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 916 Central Road, Arlington Heights.

The concert is titled "What Sweeter Music," in recognition of the Christmas cantata of similar name by composer John Rutter (words by Robert Herrick) that is included in the program.


"The concert program is envisioned as a musical tour of the sounds and themes of the holiday season," said NWCS Artistic Director Thomas Colao.

"We'll celebrate Christmas and the New Year with some old, familiar carols and some new favorites; we'll take a moment to celebrate the timeless wonder of snow and paint a vast, sonic portrait of a frozen winter landscape; and we'll perform two masterworks of the season by composers who, while probably equal in renown, represent nearly opposite ends of the musical spectrum. We believe the audience will find music that speaks to them on this program."

NWCS' collaborative pianist Lori Lyn Mackie will accompany the chorus.

Other songs on the concert program include three selections from French composer Francis Poulenc's "Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noel" (three of the "Four Motets for Christmastime"), "Magnificat in D" by German composer Johann Pachelbel, "Tundra" with music by Ola Gjeilo and lyrics by Charles Anthony Silvestri, Bruce Tippette's setting of Robert Frost's poem "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening," and "Bethlehem Down," composition by British Peter Warlock set to a poem written by poet Bruce Blunt.

Also on the program are John Rutter's "Shepherd's Pipe Carol" and English Chorister William Walton's "What Cheer?" the latter which celebrates the New Year.

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Francis Poulenc was born into a wealthy bourgeois household in Paris, and became one of the most important French composers of the 20th century. His works span multiple genres, including operas, concertos, 150 art songs, chamber, music and choral works, including the oratorio "Gloria."

Poulenc was a devout Catholic, and his faith was a central theme in many of his works. "Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël" was completed in 1952, and follows the narrative of the Nativity story.

Motet (I) "O magnum mysterium" is a responsorial chant traditionally recanted during the Christmas Matins. It depicts the stable following Christ's birth in a quiet period of reprieve before its news is proclaimed to the shepherds.

The text of motet (III), "Videnes stellam," a responsory for the Christmas Matins, paints a picture of the star in the sky that leads the Magi to Christ. In motet (IV), "Hodie Christus natus est," the faithful make their response to the news with unbridled exuberance: "Gloria in excelsis Deo."


Johann Pachelbel was a composer known for his works for organ and one of the great organ masters of the generation before Johann Sebastian Bach.

Pachelbel studied music at Altdorf and Regensburg and held posts as organist in Vienna, Stuttgart, and other cities. In 1695, he was appointed organist at the St. Sebalduskirche in Nuremberg, where he remained until his death.

Approximately 530 compositions have been attributed to Johann Pachelbel, including about 30 free fugues and 90 Magnificat Fugues. The text of the "Magnificat" is taken from the Gospel of Luke, where it is spoken by Mary. In western Christianity, the "Magnificat" is often sung or recited during the main evening prayer service, especially in the Advent season.

The concert safety protocols will depend on the current number of COVID cases in Cook County; otherwise, masks and distancing are optional.

Tickets for the "What Sweeter Music" concert are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors if purchased online at or by calling (224) 585-9127 prior to the Dec. 4 concert.

Tickets purchased starting one hour prior to the concert at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 916 Central Road in Arlington Heights, are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors.

NWCS' concert programs are sponsored, in part, by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.

Rehearsals for the second half of NWCS' 2022-23 season will begin on Jan. 17, with the new session's concluding concert scheduled for April 30. 

Founded in 1965, the Northwest Choral Society is a nonprofit organization that promotes and encourages the appreciation, understanding and performance of a variety of choral literature.

The Northwest Choral Society invites experienced singers to audition to join the organization. Basses, tenors, altos and sopranos with previous choral experience and at least 17 years of age can obtain additional information at

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