Christmas Joy: notes from the Director
The celebration of Christmas has inspired a vast array of beloved musical traditions throughout the ages! Christmas Joy features pieces that range from classic selections for women’s voices like Brahms’ Ave Maria and Britten’s This Little Babe to arrangements of carols and spirituals that old a revered place in the rich tapestry of Christmas choral music. Carols lie at the very heart and soul of traditional Christmas music. They are often associated with a particular place such as The Sussex Carol from England and the Wexford Carol from Ireland. While Europe is the place of origin for many traditional carols like the French carol Masters in this Hall, the New World has also produced many beautiful carols and folksongs that were originally handed down through an oral tradition such as A La Nanita Nana from Cuba and carols from Appalachia like Jesus, Jesus Rest Your Head and I Wonder as I Wander. And The Moon of Wintertime, an arrangement of the Canadian Christmas hymn The Huron Carol, tells the story of the nativity using imagery of Native American cultures.
Spirituals add a distinctive flavor and energy to the telling of the Christmas story. In 2007 Bella Voce commissioned Robert DeCormier to arrange a set of Christmas spirituals for women’s voices and instruments. Mary Had a Baby – A Suite of Christmas Spirituals draws from the African-American and Afro-Caribbean traditions. Spirituals often feature “call and response” singing where a soloist sings a phrase – the call – and the choir either repeats the phrase back to the soloist or answers it with a response. Using this method, these spirituals tell the story of Christ’s humble birth and of his glorious role as the “wonderful counselor.”
Bella Voce Women’s Chorus hopes that these songs are a gift of Christmas Joy to you!
Founder and Music Director
Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont
Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont was founded in March of 2004 by Dr. Dawn Willis and performed their first full concert in May of that same year. The chorus of 45 auditioned singers performs existing and newly commissioned sacred and secular works for women’s voices, often in combination with instrumentalists. The chorus includes singers from four counties in northern Vermont, many of whom also sing in a variety of school, church, and community choruses across the region. Bella Voce has presented concerts and festivals throughout New England and recently performed in several locations in Ireland.
Dr. Dawn O. Willis, Music Director
Dawn Willis, Music Director and Founder of Bella Voce Women’s Chorus, also serves as the Assistant Director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music from Arizona State University and Masters degrees in Sacred Music and Choral Conducting from Southern Methodist University. In 1999, Dr. Willis conducted the New England Symphonic Ensemble and the McMurry University Choirs in a performance of Mozart’s Solemn Vespers at Carnegie Hall. She has also served as a guest conductor for the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra and prepared choruses for regional orchestras in Iowa and Texas. Dr. Willis has served as the Director of Choral Activities at McMurry University and Iowa Wesleyan College, and has conducted the University of Vermont Catamount Singers and Arizona State University Women’s Chorus. She has conducted numerous festivals, clinics, and workshops throughout Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, South Dakota, and Vermont. In addition, she has served as the choral director for churches in several denominations and directed numerous collegiate and community musicals, operas, and madrigal dinners. Dawn also composes and arranges sacred and secular choral music and pieces for handbell ensembles.
Glory Reinstein, Assistant Director
Glory Reinstein received her B.S. in Music Education from the University of Vermont and her Masters Degree in Music Education at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut. She presently teaches vocal/choral music as well as other music electives at Essex High School. Glory has conducted church choirs and been involved in community musical theater throughout her career. She has been an adjudicator and guest conductor throughout Vermont and Northern New York. Glory is a former President of the Vermont Chapter of American Choral Directors’ Association and the Vermont Music Educators’ Association and presently serves on both boards. Her awards include being named the 1997–1998 Vermont Music Educator of the Year, the 1998-1999 North Country Union High School Teacher of the Year, and the 2007 Vermont Arts Alliance award recipient.
Shirley Smith, Accompanist
Shirley Smith holds undergraduate degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Education from the Hartt School of Music and a Masters Degree in Religious Education degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary. Trained as a singer and pianist, Shirley was a public school music educator in New York, Kansas, and Vermont for twenty years. She has served as the accompanist for several community and school choruses plus the studios of numerous private voice teachers throughout the region. She has performed with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the Vermont Music Educators’ Association and American Choral Directors’ Association.
Xiudan Lin, Assistant Accompanist
Xiudan Lin moved to the United States in 2002 from southeastern China. She is currently a music major at The University of Vermont. Xiudan recently won first place in both the Vermont Philharmonic Jon Borowicz Memorial Student Music Scholarship Competition and the Vermont All-State Music Festival Scholarship Competition in the piano category.
Chelsie Henderson, Conducting Intern
Chelsie Henderson is in her second year as the high school choral director and middle school music teacher at the Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, Vermont. Chelsie graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Music Education in May of 2007. She currently serves as the Choral Chair of the Vermont Music Educators’ Association. Chelsie has been a member of Bella Voce’s oung Conductors’ Mentoring Program since its inception in 2005.