Symphony keeps choral tradition

For 18 years, the Oakland East Bay Symphony has celebrated the holidays with a choral concert called “Let Us Break Bread Together.”

“The idea for the concert,” says music director Michael Morgan, “came out of a desire to do a great variety of styles of choral music in a single evening, each chorus really committed to its own area of music and then we perform some music together.

Describing what will take place Sunday at the Paramount Theatre, Morgan says, “This has now morphed into a celebration of community, crossing ages and races and religious traditions. In other words, it’s a metaphor for the Bay Area and particularly Oakland, where instead of lecturing people about diversity, you just demonstrate it. It is a pure joy.”

Featured groups include the Oakland Symphony Chorus, Terrance Kelly and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Mt. Eden High School Choir, Grammy-winning Pacific Boychoir and Klezmer sensation Kugelplex.

“Breaking Bread” has been known for notable soloists. However, Joan Baez, who was the concert’s slated headline, will be missed this year. She had to cancel because she’s recovering from a fall at her house last month; she was climbing down her favorite tree.

Beyond the concern for Baez, Morgan is certain that the afternoon of gospel, classical selections, holiday favorites and sing-alongs will once again provide impressive attendance.

He won’t even try “to replace the irreplaceable” Baez: “We’re returning to our usual format in those concerts, which focuses on the choruses and local, less legendary artists, which has served us well.”

Between the opening Hallelujah Chorus from “Messiah” and the closing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with combined choruses and the audience, the program’s variety is impressive.

Gordon Parks’ “Hope Is the Song” is set to music by Lee Kesselman, followed by Mark Riese’s choral fantasy on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and Hans Leo Hassler’s “Verbum Caro Factum.”

Traditional gospels, hymns and a Hasidic song will bracket a movement from John Rutter’s “Gloria” before the concert’s title song, “Let Us Break Bread Together” with an orchestral arrangement by Ellen Hoffman, is performed.

Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” Donald Fraser’s “This Christmas Tide,” Dan Cantrell’s “Jari Ya Hammouda” and Terrance Kelly’s arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Clean Heart” make an unusual mix, leading up to the finale — “crossing ages and races and religious traditions,” as promised by Morgan.

IF YOU GO

Let Us Break Bread Together

Presented by Oakland East Bay Symphony

Where: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $12 to $45

Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.oebs.org

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