Cinnamon and silk, and belly dancers, too. Choral music from the Middle East, the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe and other parts of the world as well.
These are the things that went through choral director Tracia Barbieri’s mind as she assembled “Frankincense and Myrrh — A Caravan of Exotic Choral Treasures,” the program that the Davis-based Vocal Art Ensemble will present Friday in Sacramento, Saturday in Woodland and Sunday in Davis.
Among other things, Barbieri was thinking of the three kings who spotted a star with a tail, and followed that star to find the birthplace of the baby Jesus, where they presented gifts.
“There are a few pieces on the program that mention the Magi,” Barbieri said. “But I loved the idea of parading a whole lot of different pieces that represent different elements of the caravan — tapestries, silk and satin, precious gems. Music that alludes to different aspects of the goods that might be carried by a caravan.
“I like the idea of the music helping us think about the different textures, flavors and cultures that the caravan would encounter along the way.
“When I put together a program, I start with one piece that gives the feel of what I’m after, and for this program the inspiration came from an Eastern European piece that has some belly dancers — a mesmerizing, captivating piece,” she said.
So Barbieri linked up with the group Fiesta DanceN’Fitness: Multicultural Arts and Wellness, and several women from that group will perform with the Vocal Art Ensemble for this program.
“Thick, curvy smoke coming out of an Arabian lamp — that’s what I wanted them to look like, and feel like,” Barbieri said.
“They’re not used to doing belly dance with choral music, and most people don’t think of a Christmas concert having belly dancers,” Barbieri acknowledged. “But where did Christmas originate? The Middle East.
“I like the idea of mentioning cinnamon, and then hearing a piece of music that adds some spice, with a smoothness to it. I want people in the audience to experience the music with some non-musical imagery in their head,” Barbieri said.
The program also will include some early American music, some Serbian music, even a bit of Gregorian chant.
“I’m seeking to establish that connection between old and new,” Barbieri said.
Friday’s concert will be at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave., Sacramento. Saturday’s concert will be at 7:30 p.m. at Woodland Presbyterian Church, 1324 Colombia Drive in Woodland. Sunday’s concert will be at 4 p.m. at Davis United Methodist Church, 1620 Anderson Road in Davis.
A suggested donation of $6 to $20 may be offered at the door. For more information, go to www.vae.trug.com or call 530-757-2396.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.