Vashon Island Chorale’s ‘A Celebration of Carols’ kicks off a festive season

When Vashon Island Chorale takes the stage with a 15-piece chamber orchestra this weekend to perform “A Celebration of Carols” at Bethel Evangelical Free Church, it will be a concert that has been almost two decades in the making.

Chorale artistic director Gary Cannon

When Vashon Island Chorale takes the stage with a 15-piece chamber orchestra this weekend to perform “A Celebration of Carols” at Bethel Evangelical Free Church, it will be a concert that has been almost two decades in the making.

The chorale was formed in 1989, with the goal of creating a choir with membership open to all, without audition.

Today — eight directors, dozens of concerts, several venues, hundreds of singers and thousands of pages of sheet music later — the chorale continues to provide opportunities for Island singers.

“That’s the beauty of the choir,” said Marita Ericksen, the chorale’s assistant director and a soprano, who joined the group in 1991. “It’s made up of people from all walks of life and musical backgrounds.”

The choir is currently 75 voices strong and boasts a new artistic director, Gary Cannon, who commutes to the Island each Tuesday to lead chorale rehearsals in the high school band room.

An accomplished tenor, Cannon performs regularly with several area ensembles and conducts three others.

Cannon, who says he appreciates Vashon choir’s “climate of camaraderie,” hopes to help the chorale develop a bigger and richer sound.

“There is a kind of independence of thought and ability that I’m hoping to develop in each singer,” he said.

According to Mary Frances Lyons, who discovered the chorale in 2007 after moving to the Island, Cannon’s presence is already paying off.

“There is a measurable favorable increment in our standard of performance,” she said. “Having recently had two guest conductors, one of whom was Gary, was formative for us and really raised the bar.”

Lyons also gives credit to choir soloists Andrew and Jennifer Krikawa, who joined the group in 2005. The Krikawas both had distinguished careers as opera singers prior to their move to the Island.

“They are our rocks,” said Lyons.

Over the years, the chorale has performed at several venues, including Strawberry Festival stages, Vashon High School, the Mormon church and St. John Vianney Catholic Church.

The chorale now performs at Bethel Church, where, Lyons said, the chorale has been made to feel “embraced and affirmed.”

She added that audiences have also appreciated the welcoming charms of Bethel Church.

“They serve fantastic cookies at intermission,” she said.

Concert details

“A Celebration of Carols” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, at Bethel Church, located at S.W. 148th St. and 119th Ave.

Concert highlights will include “Fantasia on Christmas Carols,” by British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and “A Christmas Garland,” by American composer Conrad Susa.

Tickets are $12.50 or $10 for students and seniors and can be purchased in advance at Island book stores. Barring sell-out, tickets will also be sold at the door.

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