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An 'Old Fashioned Christmas'

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A unique holiday program that blends voices, traditions and the sounds of the restored Kilgen theater organ is on tap Dec. 23 at the Sheldon Theatre. "An Old Fashioned Christmas in Red Wing" will start at 7 p.m.

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Concert organist Stephen Hamilton has created a program featuring four vocalists -- soprano Rosemary Barenz, mezzo soprano Susan Druck, tenor Steven Pearthree and bass Thomas Dreeze -- along with the Sheldon's historic pipe organ. Once used to accompany silent films, the theater organ has its own unique array of sounds.

Classic and classical music is interspersed throughout the holiday program, which is divided into four acts.

Hamilton will open with a prelude including such familiar tunes as "Winter Wonderland" and "Away in a Manger."

The opening set, A Caroling Party, will feature organ and vocals performing a variety of songs such as "I Wonder As I Wander" and "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem."

Following another organ interlude will be another set of songs for A Wassail Party. Among those selections will be "The Holly and the Ivy" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

The second half of the evening will open with Hamilton playing "Hallelujah Chorus" and other organ pieces, followed by a section titled Christmas Eve at Church. "Mary Had a Baby" is among songs in that set.

The final act -- Christmas Day and Santa Claus -- adds humor to the program with "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and other Christmas favorites. The audience will be invited to sing along on "Jingle Bells" and some other popular music.

The finale by Hamilton will be a toccata on "Adeste Fideles."

Hamilton, who was minister of music at the Church of the Holy Trinity in New York City for 20 years, conceived and produced the program with Kenneth Huber. Adding percussion will be Randy Rowoldt.

For 30 years, Hamilton has earned critical acclaim as an engaging and talented performer across the United States and abroad. Among highlights of his career is the premiere performance of Kenton Coe's "Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion" in France.

He frequently appears with regional orchestras playing concertos, and has been heard in hundreds of solo recitals and nationally broadcast radio programs. In addition to concert appearances, Hamilton also has collaborated on modern and liturgical dance performances.

Now minister of music emeritus at the Church of the Holy Trinity, he teaches college courses, serves as clinician for master classes and workshops, and lectures on issues related to church issues.

Three of the vocalists are familiar to Minnesota audiences.

Drunk, a faculty member at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, is an active mezzo soprano soloist in oratorio, chamber music, concert and opera. She has been featured with VocalEssence, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers and the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra.

Pearthree, the tenor, began his vocal studies as a Fulbright scholar to Trondheim, Norway. He also has appeared with the Warland Singers, Minnesota Opera and other local ensembles, and is a member of the Professional Quartet at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul and a soloist with the Cathedral Choir at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

Baritone Dreeze, an Ohio native, has had a varied career including singing with operas throughout the Midwest; performing in concerts, recitals and musicals; and working in artist management in London. He is a soloist at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, events manager at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and co-founder of Agathon Productions consultants.

Lyric soprano Barenz has performed in operas and concerts from New York to California, earning high praise for roles including the title role in "Lucrezia Borgia" for Opera Manhattan. She was invited by Benny Goodman to appear with him at the Waterloo Village Jazz Festival. A native Midwesterner, she is a featured soloist on the Warland Singers' first "Echoes of Christmas" CD.

Tickets to the concert are $15 for adults, $9 for students. Call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.

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