December is a busy month at Newport Classical, whose holiday concerts have become a tradition for many. Founded over 50 years ago, Newport Classical is a year-round organization (perhaps best known for their summer Music Festival in July) bringing world famous musicians to the City by the Sea for programs of popular and lesser-known works. Their monthly chamber concerts and community events connect people of all ages and backgrounds to classical music.
Kicking off the holiday season this year is their beloved Christmas show: a chamber performance of Handel’s Messiah on December 4 at Rosecliff Mansion. “Messiah features a professional choral ensemble from Providence called Ensemble Altera,” says director of artistic planning and engagement Trevor Neal. “They are really an exceptional group, and Rhode Island’s first professional chorus. They’re performing with The Choir School of Newport County, a great collaboration that we are glad to continue every year. The kids will sing the alto solo parts.”
“The chorus will be accompanied by orchestra professionals from the Boston and New York markets,” adds Neal. “The music director and I take a lot of care to keep the intent of Handel, but we also have some limitations in the space that Rosecliff presents. We call it a boldly reimagined chamber version of his timeless classic.”
The annual Classical Christmas concert, a family-friendly celebration of the season, follows on December 10. The performance takes place at Emmanuel Church and includes sing-a-longs to holiday classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Silent Night,” and “The First Noel.” “Every year we do a community collaboration that involves musicians around Rhode Island in partnership with St. George’s School. Come along, have fun, sing the ones you know,” says Neal. “There will be hot cider and cookies, too.”
Outside of the holiday season, Neal oversees community engagement activities that include concerts with school groups featuring visiting artists. “We run four to five concerts throughout the Newport community from September through May,” he says. “We’re looking for more locations for our community concerts, and the Chamber Series is going great. In February, we have a phenomenal pianist Gabriela Martinez. She has a fantastic repertoire, including some from Latinx
composers, which should be very interesting for our patrons who historically have not been exposed to a lot of this music.”
The state of classical music is strong according to Neal. “A lot of people still think that classical music is this museum piece, but it really isn’t,” he explains. “There’s music constantly being written; it’s a living art form, and there are still stories to be told through the eyes of some very exciting composers who are emerging right now. A lot of people are a little more willing to give us a chance because we’ve chosen diversity as our vehicle to get these things across. People are liking what they’re hearing.” NewportClassical.org
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