Celebrate the season with the Community Chorus
The Merced College Community Chorus will present its annual “Celebrate The Season” concert on Thursday, Dec. 5, and Friday, Dec. 6, at 7:30 p.m.
The concert, conducted by Philip J. Smallwood, will be held in the Merced College Theater located at 3600 M Street in Merced.
Smallwood received a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from Fresno State in 2017, and currently lectures at Merced College and Modesto Junior College in music history.
Prior to teaching Music at the college level, he taught high school level chorus and piano for 20 years, and he has a long history of working in church music as well. He also has a private voice and piano studio and teaches his students in Merced.
Smallwood told the Times, “This is my fourth year as the conductor of this ensemble, which is a part of the Merced College Non-credit Department and has about 65 members.
“We have members who drive from Fresno, Los Banos, Turlock, and Mariposa.
“Among those performing will be Michael Belluomini, Jim and Janet Buckley, Lori Nelson, Karen Whitmyre, Holly Zacharias, and JoAnn Gaines-Winfrey.
“The concert will feature a candle-lighting ceremony where a song will begin in complete darkness and during the course of the song, we will light everyone’s candles. It is touching and beautiful.
“Some new holiday carols, as well as some classic ones, will be performed. Some of the songs we’re going to sing are ‘Fum Fum Fum,’ ‘Carol of the Bells,’ and ‘Caroling, Caroling.’
“The theme of the concert is peace, and we end with ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth.’
“The literature we’re performing in this concert is of a wide variety — traditional, chorus with piano accompaniment, a piece in Hebrew that is about peace, a Brazilian piece, and some acappella pieces, as well as Gospel music. We’re also performing music that celebrate other winter holidays besides Christmas.”
Admission to the concert costs $10 at the door, or $8 if purchased in advance at the Merced College Book Store or from members of the Merced College Community Chorus. Tickets for seniors and students cost $8.
Describing the group of musicians he conducts, Smallwood told the Times, “The chorus has a long history of 35 to 40 years. Curtis Nelson directed this chorus for about 20 years before I took it over, and at that time it was called Merced College Chorale.
“Two ensembles performed together, a day class and a night class. The chorale became the day chorus, and my class, the night class, became the Merced College Community Chorus.
“There are always opportunities for solos and duets in virtually every concert we’ve done, as well as a small group that is auditioned from whoever is in the chorus. The group is known as the Merced College Community Singers. Members of the group are a wide mix from relatively new singers to those that have many years of experience.
“People who would like to join the chorus are welcome to arrive at Merced College on Jan. 14, 2020 at 6:15 p.m. The class, which is free, will meet to rehearse on Tuesdays from 6:15 to 9:15 p.m.
“We will perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Merced Symphony in April. In addition, we will present our own concert in May. My goal is to be eclectic in the music we’re performing.”
Smallwood concluded, “Part of my ongoing desire is to let people know if they want to donate money to student education and the arts, the Merced College Foundation, a non-profit that funds Arts and other aspects of education, is a place they can donate. The money would go to the arts, student scholarships, mini grants, student projects, campus beautification, and College for Kids. “The Foundation’s Board is made up of well-known local individuals, and the decisions about what they are going to fund are made by those board members.
“When I came on as Conductor, the Foundation gave us a large grant that covered the literature we purchased and the hiring of additional musicians.
“At this point, we have built up a reserve, and the Foundation doesn’t need to support us over and above the funds received from ticket sales.”
For further information, those interested can go online to www.mercedcollegecommunitychorus.org.