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Boston Camerata Celebrates Americas Musical Heritage

KEENE, NH, 11/12/01 - One of the worlds most respected early music ensembles, The Boston Camerata, will visit Keene State Colleges Redfern Arts Center on Brickyard Pond Saturday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. for a special holiday concert celebrating Americas rich musical heritage. Led by its founder Joel Cohen, the Cameratas program celebrates the holidays by engaging the audience with storytelling, sing-along, nostalgia, and an affirmation of Americas unique musical tradition.

An American Christmas, which will consist of 25 songs and melodies, will also feature an appearance by the regions popular Youth Chorus at Keene State College. They will join the Camerata in such songs as Pretty Home, Star in the East, and Jesus, Light of the World.

The performance is funded in part by a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tickets are available through the Brickyard Pond box office at 603-358-2168 or at their website Ticket prices are $21 and $18 for the general public, $19 and $16 for seniors and KSC faculty and staff, $11.50 and $10 for youth 17 and younger, and $5 for KSC students with ID.

The Camerata is made up of six singers, four instrumentalists, and Cohen himself. Their concert is an eclectic mix of songs, both sacred and profane, mournful and happy. At times the audience will be asked to join in such favorites as Joy to the World, Amazing Grace, and What Child is This? (Greensleeves) among others. The Camerata will be heard in a variety of Shaker songs, as well as a sampler of tunes from the folk tradition, shape-note songbooks, and works by Colonial-era New England composers such as William Billings and Jeremiah Ingalls.

Cohen, who has directed the ensembles teaching, research, recording, and concert activities since 1968, describes the music in the concert as the whole-grain form of music usually heard in malls and concerts and on the radio. Our hymn tunes, anthems and Christmas carols once had the vitality of a hoedown and the fervor of a revival. Then, as the country urbanized, well- meaning musicians dressed them up, toned them down and left us with the refined sentimental stuff we hear today.

In recent seasons, the Camerata has been heard in Canada, England, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Israel. In the United States, it has participated in recent early music festivals in Berkeley and San Antonio, as well as in most of the biennial Boston Early Music Festivals from 1981 to 1993.

The ensemble has maintained an extensive touring schedule across the United States. Their second, third and fourth invitations to the renowned Tanglewood Festival came in 1992, 1994 and 1995, and they undertook their first Japanese tour in 1995, while giving their first Scandinavian performances in 1996.

Media appearances by the Camerata have included a nationally syndicated radio series in the U.S. and numerous broadcasts on French, English, Canadian, Dutch, Spanish, Swiss, Norwegian, and Swedish radio.

The Youth Chorus is under the direction of Gladys Johnsen, an associate professor of music education at Keene State, who founded the chorus in 1993. This select group of singers, from grades four to nine, have performed in New York City at the Eastern Division of the Music Educators Association, as well as with such stars of the music industry as Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge, and Tom Chapin.

In preparation for their appearance with the Camerata, pianist Kim Fisher of West Swanzey has accompanied them, and Brenda Romanello, who teaches music at Mt. Caesar School in Swanzey, has coordinated the rehearsals.

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