A new Judith Lang Zaimont composition will be just one element of the second annual Winter Serenade Saturday.
The Maricopa Music Circle and the Maricopa Chorus are again joining harmonious forces to perform two concerts of deeply literate and orchestral holiday music. A combination of “classical, choral and holiday favorites,” the events provide an arena for the rich musical talent in Maricopa.
“Some of the music is really challenging,” Maricopa Chorus conductor John Janzen said.
The first concert is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Black Box Theatre at Maricopa High School’s Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
“That’s a wonderful venue,” Zaimont said. “It’s so immediate between the audience and performers. It makes everything very communicative.”
The second serenade is 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, at the Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, 6400 W. Del Rio St., in Chandler.
“This is the second or third time we’ve exported Maricopa concert music talent outside of the city,” Zaimont said.
Zaimont, whose award-winning classical compositions have been performed across the country and around the world, founded the Music Circle in 2011. Just this spring, she created an original carol, “Little Angel,” which makes its Arizona premiere at the Winter Serenade.
“I had been thinking about a carol for a couple of years,” Zaimont said. “As creative artists we don’t want to tread in shoes that have already been worn. So I was looking for a new approach.”
She delved into nativity art from the Renaissance and Middle Ages and noted that above the manger there always seemed to be an angel indicating the sacredness of the event portrayed.
A story formed in her mind of a child at the inn where Mary and Joseph were turned away. The child sees the light – “that special glow,” Zaimont said – and asks permission from the angel to enter the scene.
“It’s intimidating,” Janzen said of performing a piece in front of the composer. “Here’s the composer, not just any weekend music composer, it’s a big- time composer. We’ve been working on that one to have it up to her standards.”
“Little Angel” is written for sopranos and alto with a soprano solo. Janzen said Zaimont stayed after their final dual rehearsal and worked with the singers. That “kicked it up a notch,” he said.
She explained to the singers the emotion she wanted out of the piece. “It was a lot of fun to see that come to life like that,” Janzen said.
The four-verse carol is uncommon for Zaimont for a couple of reasons. She composed the lyric as well as the music, and it was a personal work rather than commissioned.
A lion’s share of her work is commissioned. She just returned from Vienna where a commissioned piece was performed, and she is now working on a new commission, a four-movement piece honoring the family of Vice President Walter Mondale.
But she keeps her ear to the ground locally. Last year, when she learned Janzen wanted the Maricopa Chorus to perform with an orchestra, she was on the spot.
“You listen to what people’s dreams are,” she said.
The Winter Serenade includes well-known Christmas tunes and some rare pieces, like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Bells.” Zaimont’s husband Gary, a painter, also arranged orchestral parts for songs like Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon.
“The arrangements are tailored to our specific instrumentation,” Judith Zaimont said. “It does make an absolutely full orchestral sound.”
There will be music from Dvorak, Mozart, Beethoven, Bizet and Debussy, among others. Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” has a special place in the evening’s performance.
The grand finale will be five movements (four vocal) from Handel’s “Messiah.”
“It’s a real event,” said Zaimont, who hopes local residents will turn out big to cheer on Maricopa talent.