Greenwood Singers and handbell choir ring in The Many Moods of Christmas


The Many Moods of Christmas
Greenwood Singers and University of Alberta Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers
Monday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
First Presbyterian Church
10025 – 105 St.
Tickets: $18 to $20. Call 780-420-1757 or at

Fresh on the heels of various weekend seasonal concerts, the Greenwood Singers join forces with the University of Alberta Faculty of Education Handbell Ringers to herald the coming of Christmas.

The Many Moods of Christmas, a holiday staple now enjoying its 38th edition, runs Monday, Dec. 4 at First Presbyterian Church. For Robert de Frece, Greenwood founder-conductor, the intimate aura of First Presbyterian is a major selling point.

“The church has a special warmth that is just right for this program. Even though it’s a big place, the audience feels close to us and we feel close to it,” said de Frece.

The Greenwood Singers are a core choir within the region, and together with the gentle sounds of the Handbell Ringers, have developed a reputation for creating magical, meditative concerts.

The program includes carols and sacred works spanning five centuries from the Renaissance to the present, settings of popular Christmas songs, and a carol arrangement by Norwegian composer Ola Gjielo, a Julliard trained musician that has lately come to prominence.

The concert starts with the processional piece O Come All Ye Faithful, arranged by Joel Raney. Largely instrumental, the 14 ringers start the show playing 75 bells and 56 chimes. Piano and organ come in at the halfway point and the choir adds their voices towards the end.

“He writes these spectacular measures that sound like a great overture. And handbells are such a fascinating art. They not only have a beautiful sound, but they are visually appealing. Everybody does something different,” de Frece said.

Another highlight is the breathtaking 20th century work of Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, a composition that includes a Gregorian chant written in four parts for men and three for women.

“It’s quite a serene piece. We’re excited to do it.”

From Gjielo’s musical catalogue, the choir sings a mashup of three carols – O Come, O Come Emmanuel, In the Bleak Mid-Winter and God Rest Ye Merry! – originally written for two choirs.

“Everyone sings in eight parts and it has these shimmery textures. The choirs trade notes and they make these shimmery sounds. It’s very challenging, but very rewarding.”

The repertoire also includes a three-carol arrangement from Mack Wilberg, current music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The mashup creates a range of moods from sparkling delight to tranquil introspection and a series of fast runs on the piano.

And then there’s a jazzy handbell selection of Jolly Old St. Nicholas set for 66 bells and 36 chimes.

Choral ambassadors for the local crowd include St. Albert baritone Terrence Lysak and Morinville alto Laura Rankin.

“This is a really, really nice way to start the season. It’s a very joyful concert.”


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.