Spending Christmas with the Brazeal Dennard Chorale

It’s Christmas time again. Time to break out the holiday decorations, ugly Christmas sweaters, and long lists to Santa.

And, its also the time for wonderful holiday concerts. I had the opportunity to start the season off right by attending the Brazeal Dennard Chorale’s annual holiday concert, which took place last Sunday at the Max M. Fisher Center in Detroit.

The Brazeal Dennard Chorale is an African American chorale organization that was founded in 1972 by vocalist, arranger and educator Brazeal Dennard. The group is composed of classically trained musicians and it remains one of the oldest choral organizations in the country. Composer, arranger and conductor Augustus Hill succeeded Dennard as the artistic director of the Chorale and is currently in charge of the organization.

The chorale is dedicated toward keeping the original form of music known as Negro Spirituals alive by incorporating the genre into its performance repertoire. Witnessing the the Brazeal Dennard Chorale is like experiencing the Fisk Jubilee Singers in action, as they gracefully inflect great passion into each lyric and have you on the  edge of your seat as their soloists beautifully stretch their falsetto to unspeakable ranges.

The first part of the concert consisted of traditional Christmas hymns by Baroque composers such as George Frideric Handel and Austrian composer Franz Haydn. The second part of the program consisted of more contemporary Christmas songs and the Chorale elegantly serenaded the audience on my personal favorite tune “O Holy Night.”

As the orchestra played softly, the chorale fluctuated between mezzo piano and mezzo forte and they were completely in sync throughout the entire performance.

They ended the concert with an a capella version of  Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, which could not have been any more perfect. Chorale alumni joined the current members on stage for a stellar version of the popular tune. Seeing the Brazeal Dennard Chorale in concert is truly an unforgettable experience and is one that I’m glad I had the chance to witness

Seeing them perform is a rare treat during the year, as their main performances take place during the Christmas season as well as during their annual Classical Roots concert series in March in which they perform works by African American composers along with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Check out their website for more information. http://www.brazealdennard.org/


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