Late May may seem like an odd time to be thinking about Christmas music, but putting on this kind of show is a year-long job.
Cór Ainglí typically gives between two and four performances between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but preparation begins long before.
In fact, arranging for the next year’s performance venues and for accompanying instrumentalists starts almost immediately after Christmas, and recruitment for prospective new members begins in March.
In the intervening months, Mary works on acquiring, arranging, and translating new material. A workshop and group audition for prospective members is held in early June each year, and mandatory weekly workshops for all choir members, new and returning, continue through July.
The choir itself takes a brief rehearsal break in late summer (during which individuals are expected to practice on their own, using the extensive materials they’re given during the summer workshops), but that’s also when the promotional effort gets started, going into full swing late in September.
Weekly rehearsals begin again in the fall, and continue up to the date of the first performance.
In the early years, Cór Ainglí’s main Santa Cruz performance and rehearsal venue was the lovely gas-lit Victorian sanctuary of Calvary Episcopal Church in the heart of downtown area.
After the second year, however, it became clear that the concerts were more popular than the small historic church could handle, and the Santa Cruz performance was moved to 400-seat Holy Cross Catholic Church – a city landmark that sits on a hill above the downtown area and is renowned for its excellent acoustics.
The choir also performs in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay areas (past venues have included churches in San Jose and Morgan Hill, and even a mausoleum in Oakland!).
A year after the move to Holy Cross, the rehearsal site was also moved, to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in the town of Aptos, just south of Santa Cruz.
In 2007, Mary accepted an invitation to form a second Cór Ainglí in St. Louis, Missouri, which also performed to sell-out crowds. And in 2009, Community Television of Santa Cruz recorded the California group’s Holy Cross performance and broadcast it throughout the Christmas season.
Clearly, choral music in Irish is something America is willing to embrace…stormy weather or not! Read more on Cór Ainglí.
See our series of articles on singing in Irish by Cór Ainglí member Audrey Nickel. Click the links below.
Part 1 “Singing in Irish: yes – it’s a language”
Part 2 “Singing In Irish — The Sean-Nós Tradition”
Part 3 “A listener’s guide to irish song: a taste of sean-nós”