Chorale adds star power to Christmas concert

Christmas choral concerts in the Atlanta area

Atlanta Master Chorale with Jamie Barton

Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.

$20-25. Emory University’s Schwartz Center, 1700 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-727-5050.

The 87th annual Morehouse-Spelman Christmas Concert

Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. Free. Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College Campus.

Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Free. Sisters Chapel, Spelman College Campus. (Advanced tickets required).

Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. Free. Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College Campus.


Just Voices Christmas Concert and Carol Sing

Dec. 15 at 4 p.m.

$5-10. Virginia-Highland Church. 743 Virginia Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-875-3266

Gala Holiday Concert at GSU Dec 7-8,

Dec. 7 at 8 p.m.

Dec. 8 at 3 p.m.

$22-48. Rialto Center for the Arts, 80 Forsyth St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-413-9849.

Atlanta Boy Choir at the Abbey Church of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit

Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.

$15-20. 2625 Ga. 212, Conyers. 770-483-8705.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Emory

Dec. 6 at 8 p.m.

Dec. 7 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

$5-20. Emory’s Glenn Auditorium, 1652 N. Decatur Road, Atlanta. 404-727-5050.

Joyeux: A Holiday Concert by Our Song, The Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus, at Spivey Hall

Dec. 14 at 8:15 p.m.

$25. Spivey Hall, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., Morrow. 678-466-4200.

As with Christmas trees, so with Christmas concerts: They just don’t seem complete until there’s a star to top the whole thing off.

That’s seemingly the philosophy with which the Atlanta Master Chorale planned its annual Christmas concerts this year at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. On Dec. 14 and 15, the chorale is topping off its popular Christmas program with an appearance by star mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton. The native of Rome, Ga., and current Roswell resident is one of the brightest and most acclaimed up-and-coming singers in the opera world.

In June, Barton made headlines by winning the opera world’s most prestigious title, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, at the same time she won the same competition’s Song Prize. Such a double win is extremely rare in the contest’s 30-year history, all the more so because Barton is the first woman to win both titles. In November, Barton wowed Atlanta audiences with her Spivey Hall debut, and she continues to earn praise from critics worldwide, most recently this fall in two New York Times reviews, one that singled out her performance as Adalgisa in “Norma” at the Metropolitan Opera and another that rhapsodized about her solo recital at Pace University’s vocal series.

“Jamie’s appearance on our program came about by serendipity as she and I both were in New York on separate business and made plans to attend a performance,” said Jamie Clements, now in his fifth season with the chorale as first tenor. Clements says that Barton, as an Atlanta-area resident, is longtime friends with several members of the Atlanta Master Chorale: Some members of the chorus were her classmates at Rome’s Shorter College, where Barton began her vocal studies, and Barton also performed as a soloist with the chorale for its Messiah and Requiem concerts in previous years before her career skyrocketed in 2013.

“Over the course of conversation, Jamie mentioned that she had recently had the dates open up around our Christmas concerts and wished that it wasn’t too late to collaborate. I excitedly informed her that it was certainly not too late and quickly phoned our artistic director, Eric Nelson, who was as excited about the opportunity as I was,” Clements said. “The deal was formalized a few hours later.”

Barton will join the chorus on several songs and perform three solo selections.

“Jamie Barton is one of the most gifted young artists of her generation,” Nelson said. “Jamie’s exquisite artistry will be the highlight of the concert and of this holiday season.”

The annual concert includes choral Christmas classics such as “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Silent Night,” and “Away in a Manger” as well as some less widely known fare such as contemporary composer Jennifer Higdon’s 2004 work “O Magnum Mysterium.” Barton will sing three pieces, “The Virgin’s Slumber Song” by Max Reger, “Jessye’s Carol” written for Jessye Norman and the classic “O Holy Night.”

The addition of Barton to the Atlanta Master Chorale’s Christmas program comes on the heels of other exciting news for the organization. In May, the group won the prestigious Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence from Chorus America, an honor previously bestowed on such venerable institutions as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Chanticleer. The award honors the memory of Margaret Hillis, founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and its conductor for 37 years. An engraved plaque and a cash award of $5,000 are given annually to a member chorus that “demonstrates artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure, and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities.”

Founded in 1985 as the Atlanta Sacred Chorale, the Atlanta Master Chorale has grown from a volunteer choir to a nationally recognized ensemble of auditioned singers. The group has been led by Nelson, the director of choral studies at Emory University, since 1999.

Both the grant and the appearance by Barton are feathers in the cap of the Atlanta Master Chorale, and both will allow members of the chorus to do what they love best: performing music for Atlanta audiences. “Preparing for our Christmas concert each year is a true joy,” Clements said. “So many of the traditional Christmas melodies and texts hold profound meaning and memories, so preparing this concert each year is a walk down memory lane and an adventure into new depths of musicality. And we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Jamie back with us now that the world has recognized her tremendous value to musicianship and performance.”