NWC News Desk

Conductor Jan Kliewer turns his back on choir this weekend

Posted December 9, 2008

P O W E L L,  W y o. - Local music authorities have heard on good authority that vocal conductor Jan Kliewer will turn his back on his choirs this weekend.

Despite the dire prediction, the Northwest College Choir and the Master Chorale will merge Saturday, Dec. 13, for a concert of Christmas music arranged for choir and organ. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec, 13, in St. Barbara's Catholic Church.

One of the program's highlights is "Fantasia on Christmas Carols," a traditional work that features four English carols. Kliewer, who conducts both groups, says he will turn his back on the singers in order to perform the baritone solo. "I hope they keep singing even though I'm not looking at them and not waving my arms," Kliewer quipped.

"Actually, we're delighted at St. Barbara's generosity in letting us perform there. It's a very special venue, both for its beauty and its acoustics. It's even more so for this concert because of the organ," he said. "All the pieces are written to make the organ sing and none more so than 'Rejoice in the Lamb,' which is virtuosic in writing and quite difficult to perform. Tim Schoessler, the NWC accompanist, is truly accomplished on the organ and you can bet he'll give the choirs some stiff competition for the audience's favor."

Also on the program is Saint-Saens' "Christmas Oratorio," which Kliewer says uses all the new and old testament scriptures in commenting on the nativity. Community singers Bernie DuMontier and Ruth Hammond of Lovell and Marie Frame of Powell are featured soloists in the oratorio. Four NWC students also sing solo parts. They are Vernon Ward of Cody and Sadie Lewis of Afton, and Montana students Thain Bertin of Colstrip and Sara Ricord of Billings.

The most unusual work featured during the evening, according to Kliewer, is Benjamin Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb," which features texts by the Christian mystical poet Christopher Smart. "The text setting is only a small part of a voluminous text wrote while he was in debtor's prison in London," Kliewer said. "On the surface, it seems strange and nonsensical, but Smart is one of the foremost poets in this genre from the 18th century."

Admission to the combined choirs concert is free.