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Colla Voce choral concert sheds light on winter season

Singers, dancers touch on various traditions and cultures
By: Leah Rosasco, Auburn Journal Correspondent
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“Songs of Light: Yuletide-Hanukkah-Winter Solstice”
Colla Voce Chamber Singers Winter Choral Concert
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8
Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 1979 Ridge Rd, Grass Valley
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Where: Pioneer Methodist Church, 1338 Lincoln Way, Auburn                       
Cost: $15 general, $12 students/seniors, $2 ages 17 and under  
Information:  (530)305-1316, www.collavoce.org.

A local choral ensemble will celebrate the winter holidays with an interactive tribute to the “light of the season.”
The Auburn-based Colla Voce Chamber Singers, the choral group of the nonprofit Colla Voce of the Sierra, will perform “Songs of Light: Yuletide, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice.” The concert will take place alongside dancers from the Pamelot School for Dance as they present the tale of “Santa Lucia Queen of Light.”
Colla Voce founder and Artistic Director Janine Dexter said the singers will perform songs that represent a variety of traditions and cultures, from Latin chant to traditional classical music and Chanukah folk songs.  
“This is a whole, unique concert experience,” Dexter said. “It is a collaborative performance that blends visual elements and interaction with the audience with the music.”
The group, whose name means “follow the voice” in Italian, began in 2005 with twelve singers and now includes 30 singers and Dexter, who leads the vocalists throughout the concert. Although she is responsible for the art direction, music selection and the choreography, Dexter said she is the only member of the group who is silent during the performance.
“I am the only person who does not make a sound during the concerts,” Dexter said. “I am focused solely on directing the group.”
Since it began, the Colla Voce Chamber Singers have performed dozens of concerts throughout the local area, a feat that requires countless hours of practice and dedication, Dexter said.
“Every one minute of music in the concert takes 30 minutes of rehearsal,” she said. “We put a lot into it and we get a lot out of it.”
In addition to housing the Colla Voce Chamber Singers, Colla Voce of the Sierra launched a children’s chorus in 2009 for kids in the greater Auburn area. In October, the organization began sponsoring a music docent program in several Auburn schools.  The music docent program currently serves first and second grade classes at Bowman Charter School, Alta Vista Community Charter School and Skyridge Elementary School and will expand to Kindergarten and third grade next year.
Tara McConnell, licensed Music Therapist and Colla Voce Music Docent Coordinator, said the docent program is a great way to give kids a broad understanding of classical music and the importance of music in general. McConnell said the music docent curriculum is exciting in that it correlates to the academic curriculum in the classroom, including history.
“The program really offers well-rounded lesson plans that allow kids to experience music but also learn about important people in our history,” McConnell said. “I’m really happy to be involved in it.”
Larry Dorety, who has been singing with the Colla Voce Chamber Singers since the group’s inception, said although the group was initially formed as a vocal ensemble it did not take long for the choir to move beyond being just a singing group.
“We really began asking ourselves what we wanted our role in the community to be, and we’ve done a lot since we started,” Dorety said.
The music docent program is just one example of the organization’s efforts to bring the benefits of music to people of all ages, Dorety said, and he credits Dexter with pushing the organization’s boundaries.  
“Janine (Dexter) is our person with vision and sometimes she has us saying ‘huh?’ but she has really moved us along,” Dorety said.  
According to Dorety, the group also prides itself on keeping performances interesting and unique in order to appeal to a wide array of people.  
 “We are not your traditional chorus standing up in front of the audience in long black robes,” Dorety said. “It’s a very eclectic, avant garde concert.”