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Candlelight & Carols highlights Hagenberg’s “Illuminare”

Candlelight & Carols highlights Hagenberg’s “Illuminare”

Friday, November 24, 2023

The Corvallis Repertory Singers’ Candlelight and Carols annual concert always is among the ensemble’s most popular performances, as audiences look forward to the program’s blend of newer works with traditional holiday favorites.

This year’s Candlelight and Carols performance, scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at First United Methodist Church, is no exception: The featured work is “Illuminare,” the first extended piece by American composer Elaine Hagenberg. Also on the program: an eclectic selection of musical gems suitable for the holidays – and, of course, carols that everyone will know.

Hagenberg’s “Illuminare” is a five-movement work for choir and chamber orchestra that uses lesser-known sacred Latin texts to take listeners on a journey from darkness to light – and, in that regard, it’s a good fit for the holiday season, says Steven Zielke, the artistic director of the Repertory Singers.

“If you think about the holidays being a season of light, it’s a perfect work,” Zielke said.

It also fits well into the Repertory Singers’ theme for their 2023-24 season, Illumination: The Journey of Human Spirit.

And it gives the ensemble a chance to perform a work by Hagenberg, whom Zielke called “one of the hottest young choral composers in the country.”

The praise for Hagenberg is well-deserved, Zielke said: “She has that ability to write really accessible music that still has this core authenticity and significance to it.”

The second half of the program features shorter works, all suitable for the holidays – and includes a shorter work by Hagenberg, “Love’s Pure Light.” American composer Dan Forrest’s arrangement of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” also is on the program.

Also on the program is a work Zielke called “kind of a cool beast” – “Xicochi,” a 17th-century motet written by Gaspar Fernandes, a Portuguese-Mexican composer and organist. That piece will feature a guitarist and percussionist from Oregon State University.

Raymund Ocampo, the ensemble’s associate conductor, will handle conducting duties for much of the concert’s second half.

The balance between the Hagenberg piece in the first half and the lighter fare in the second is something Zielke sets out to attain in each Candlelight and Carols concert.

“The seriousness of the first half makes me wonder what I need to do to balance out this program,” Zielke said. “And once I get a sense of that, I start to think about a Christmas party. And what do you want for your guests at the Christmas party? You need a little bit of solid food, but you want some fun drinks and some Christmas cookies. I think the second half really satisfies that order.”

The Corvallis Repertory Singers’ Candlelight and Carols concert is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17 at the First United Methodist Church, 1165 NW Monroe Ave. Tickets are $25 for the main floor and $20 for the balcony. Tickets for students are $5. Tickets can be purchased at the Repertory Singers’ website,, and at the Ticket Tomato website,