Northern Lights Choir will ring in spring Friday

SARANAC LAKE – The Northern Lights Choir was launched one year ago, and it has gained momentum ever since.

First it was the “Voices of Timbuctoo,” an oratorio that told the story of how in the mid 1800s, Garrett Smith gave away 200,000 acres in the Adirondacks to 3,000 free black men to give them the right to vote.

In December, the Northern Lights Choir, accompanied by professional harpist Elizabeth Huntley, performed Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols” to packed houses, again in St. Bernard’s Church.

This Friday, the choir’s repertoire will expand once again with its spring show. The choir members will begin by surrounding the audience and singing as they file through the church on their way to the stage. From there, the show will proceed across a broad range of styles and sounds that include classical pieces, a Southern spiritual number and traditional Americana songs. They’ll also perform an Irish ballad, “Star of the County Down,” and a song from the movie “The Fellowship of the Ring” called “May it Be.”

“It will be rich in beautiful choral music with a variety of styles and textures,” said Artistic and Choral Director Helen Demong, who founded and directs the choir.

The spring show is big on variety and contains songs with vocal solos and others with instrumental arrangements. Two of the pieces will be accompanied by a string quartet while two others will bring a Caribbean style, complete with steel drums and percussion, to the program.

“I think that’s part of the intrigue for the audience,” Demong said. “I think what we’re doing is exposing a cross-section of genres and styles to our audience.”

Demong said she lovingly picked each song, so it’s improper to play favorites. That love has been passed on to the members of the 75-person choir, who Demong says all enjoy the process of making music together. The volunteer choir practices every Monday. The age range from 15 to 83.

“They come together because they love to sing together,” Demong said. “Many of these people did not know each other until last year. There’s a wonderful mutual respect from the group.”

That respect is embodied by the way the singers react to one another’s voices. Demong said the women in the choir swoon when the men sing the Irish ballad, and the men are lulled into relaxation when the women take the spotlight.

Demong said the audience of the spring concert can expect to fall under the same spell when the choir begins to sing.

“There’s something special about this choir,” Demong said. “It attracts not only seasoned, veteran singers but also young singers. It has been a real privilege to work with the singers in the Northern Lights Choir. The future is bright, and there are some wonderful things that I see happening in our future.”