Penn State choral group Essence of Joy has shared its annual winter holiday concert with the WPSU audience for the past three years, but due to the steadily growing audiences, this year’s event was moved to a larger venue.
The choir’s “Winterfest ‘14: Our Gift in Song” will be Dec. 12 at President’s Hall in The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. The performance also will air live on WPSU-FM.
Founded by Dr. Anthony Leach in November 1991, Essence of Joy is composed of 41 undergraduate and graduate students. The ensemble performs sacred and secular music from the African and African-American choral canon.
“All entities within the Essence of Joy family perform sacred and secular music from the African and African-American choral idioms,” Leach said. “This focus provides us a unique opportunity to study, perform, discuss and share with audiences aspects of the wide array or repertoire that is available to us.”
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This year, the choir will present excerpts from “Born to Die, Opus 25,” composed by Glenn Burleigh. Based on Handel’s “Messiah,” the oratorio focuses on the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.
Narration from the Old and New Testaments will help to connect the narrative, and soloists will be featured throughout the composition. This large work was scored for choir, soloists and orchestra, but for this performance, only piano, organ, percussion and electric bass will be used to support the choir.
Leach said he is proud to work with such a talented group of people from within the university, and he wants everyone to know how truly grateful he is to be in that position.
“I often share with audiences that I’m blessed to work with some of the most fabulous people this side of heaven,” he said. “What excites me about my work with Essence of Joy, the Essence of Joy Alumni Singers and Essence 2 Ltd. is the sobering reality that I get to pursue my passion for choral music. The students and adults want to be involved with me as we shepherd a variety of musical styles forward into our collective experience.”