Holiday harmonies

The Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale will present its Christmas concert, “Holiday Harmonies,” at 8 p.m., Dec. 8, at Antelope Valley College’s Performing Arts Theatre.

The program features a diverse selection of music including works by J.S. Bach, John Rutter and R. Vaughan Williams, also, a carol sing along and a premiere by Valley native and former Antelope Valley College student and soloist Joseph Bentley.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part 1, completed in 1734, is a collection of six cantatas that were performed in Leipzig, Germany on different feast days over the festive season right through to Epiphany. Part one marks the birth of Jesus.

“For some people it’s not Christmas until they hear this piece, it’s joyous,” AV Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale Artistic Director and Conductor David Newby said.

Rutter’s “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol” is a light and jolly Christmas piece Newby described as “well-crafted and moving.”

The concert will also feature the “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” by R. Vaughan Williams, who collected traditional English carols. In his “Fantasia,” he weaves and overlaps familiar carols with less well-known ones in a beautiful, poignant arrangement.

Bentley, 28, a 2008 graduate of Lancaster High School, has several degrees, including music, from AV College. He will perform the solo on “Fantasia on Christmas Carols.” Bentley also composed the piece, “Jazzy Old St. Nicholas.”

“It’s sort of a parody of Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” he said. “I kind of jazz it up a bit, well, basically made it into a swing tune.”

Pianist Gayla Giddings will accompany Bentley on the piece, which could also include a drummer.

“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of Dr. Newby’s choir group for a number of years, at this point,” Bentley said.

He hopes his piece will make the audience feel good — good enough to get up and dance.

“Hopefully the inspiration will be there,” he said. “Whether or not they act on it … At least tap their toe.”

Bentley admitted he was a little anxious to have one of his own compositions in the program. He credited Newby for help on the piece.

“I’ve been very fortunate to work with Dr. Newby. He put a lot of time reviewing my piece and giving me info and feedback on things I could change. There’d be some portions of the song that wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t done that,”

Bentley also credited his high school and college music teachers and his mother.

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