At the end of a weekend that went from a snowstorm to dense fog, the 75-member Diocesan Youth Choir lit up the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport with it second annual “Arise and Shine” Christmas Concert.
More than 900 turned out on Sunday evening for a joyous and spirited performance of Christmas songs across cultures and throughout the ages. A garland of white Christmas lights outlined the length of the stage, while images of large snowflakes where projected on the walls and ceilings. The choir, outfitted in its white robes with blue trim, sang in front of an alpine backdrop of snow and evergreens.
After a nearly ninety minute concert without intermission the choir received a standing ovation with many proud parents calling out the names of choir members, who returned the applause from the stage. “Each of us was given a great gift tonight by these young women and men,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who was the inspiration behind the choir as a way of engaging young people in the Church and affirming their faith.
“At a time that has become cold and harsh, this is what the world is meant to be,” said the Bishop gesturing to the choir. “You’ve given me great hope and encouragement.” Beginning with “Arise, Arise and Shine” and concluding with the audience joining in “Dark is the Silent Night,” the choir, under the direction of Mary Bozzuti Higgins of Wilton, held the audience with the beauty of its voices and the richness of the Christmas program.
The choir seemed particularly effective on a “Celtic Christmas Lullaby,” “Believe,” and a contemporary arrangement of “Amen, Tell It on the Mountain,” which inspired the audience. This year’s program introduced a few surprises including Soloist Ms. Adrienne Reedy, a well-known Gospel recording artist, who, backed by the full choir, brought down the house with her version of “Do You Hear What I Hear? and “Christmas Glory, Hallelujah.”
In between grouping of songs, choir members stepped forward to read passages from the nativity in Vietnamese, Spanish, Ibo (Nigerian) and English, reflecting the diversity of its members. The choir’s performance was supported by a gifted ensemble of local musicians including Clay Zambo on piano; Jessica Raposo, flute; Dr. Ralph Kirmser, Oboe; Nick Loafman, Trumpet; and percussionist Tom Foote, who energized the choir and the audience with solo drumming that led the traditional Zulu hymn, “Siyahamba.”
Choir director Mary Bozzuti Higgins was presented a bouquet of red and white roses from for her leadership in forming and preparing the choir through the weekly rehearsals held throughout the diocese over the past year. The choir has also sung a diocesan liturgies and special events. Higgins said she was proud of the entire choir, grateful for the support of parents and for the college freshman who returned from their first semester to join and concert and serve as mentors to the younger members. Members of the newly formed Catholic Service Corps served as ushers for the evening.
For more information on the Diocesan Youth Choir and the new St. Augustine Guild to support its work, visit the diocesan website: c4ysings