‘Caroling, Caroling’: Ken Hardin conducts Sierra Master Chorale one last time in holiday celebration | TheUnion.com

‘Caroling, Caroling’: Ken Hardin conducts Sierra Master Chorale one last time in holiday celebration

Hollie Grimaldi-Flores
Special to The Prospector


Who: InConcert Sierra

What: “Caroling, Caroling” Holiday Concert of Sierra Master Chorale and Orchestra, Ken Hardin, conductor (final performance)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday or 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Seventh-day Adventist Church, 12889 Osborne Hill Road, Grass Valley

Tickets: $35/general, $18/youth at BriarPatch Food Co-op, or online at http://www.inconcertsierra.org

Music lovers who have come to appreciate the work of the music director and conductor of the 80-person Sierra Master Chorale will have one last chance to see Ken Hardin in that role, this weekend at InConcert Sierra’s holiday concert, “Caroling, Caroling.”

It will not, however, be the last of Hardin’s involvement with the organization as he will continue in his role as artistic director.

In an effort to reduce his role to “one job,” he is turning his baton over to Alison Skinner who has been named his replacement as the Sierra Master Chorale director.

“I really think change is good,” Hardin said. “We have done a lot. We have achieved a lot and I am really proud of what we have done, and I think it’s time for a change.”

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Skinner will take over the responsibility of planning content for future performances, under Hardin’s tutelage.

“She wants to really continue the very successful tradition the Sierra Master Chorale has established,” said Hardin. “I am confident with her abilities. She has all of the skills, the background, the training, and the knowledge to be really successful.”

Coming from Davis, Skinner brings a fresh energy to the organization, Hardin said.

Hardin claimed that as artistic director he was essentially overseeing himself as the conductor of the chorale and will now work with Skinner in continuing to fulfill the mission of the organization first formed in 1946 (then called Twin Cities Concert Association).

Executive Director Julie Hardin said, “When we changed the name in 2010, it was like changing the organization. It is very different. It is very exciting. We learned new things and more people came into the organization, on our board of directors, and our audience grew.”

Ken added, “We set the bar higher, added more staff and we are much more organized. We are a more professional organization.”

This year’s holiday event reflects that growth. As always, the Master Chorale will be accompanied by a professional orchestra. Ken Hardin said the concert will be a fun, engaging evening that will include past choir favorites and a few of his favorites as well.

The selections are varied to include “Break Forth” by Bach accompanied by a brass quartet, Beethoven’s “Hallelujah,” and ending with “Come Colours Rise,” a South African hymn written in celebration of the end of apartheid which is described as an “uplifting, joyous number.” Both Julie and Ken Hardin agree that Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” is “bone chilling and eerie. It is so beautiful.”

A very special part of the concert will be the performance of the Mark Hayes arrangement of “Caroling, Caroling,” a medley of Alfred Burt’s carols. The endeavor, Julie said, took nearly six months to secure. She reached out to Mark Hayes to get the orchestration and learned it was out of print. Hayes ultimately helped them get permission from the publisher and was so impressed with the choir, he invited them to perform a new piece with him at Carnegie Hall, a show they were forced to turn down as it is also scheduled for this weekend.

The Alfred Burt carols were written as Christmas cards for friends and family who persuaded him to publish them. Originally performed a capella, Hayes took the songs and arranged them for orchestra. By way of Julie Hardin’s tenacity, the Sierra Master Chorale will be singing to those arrangements as part of the evening’s program.

A sing-along will also be part of the evening’s experience. “How often do you get to sing-along accompanied by an orchestra?” Ken asked.

Over the next year the organization will be focused on bringing Alison “into the family,” Julie said. “She will be great, but it is our job to give her the support she needs.”

And the organization continues to grow. “This is the right time to make the changes to help us continue our mission,” Ken said.

The mission of InConcert Sierra is to present excellent classical and choral live performance and educational opportunities to Nevada County. Part of the group’s goal is to educate and expose children and seniors to quality music. One program exposes every third grader to classical music at a performance in the spring at no cost to them or to the school. That means over 650 students will get a chance to see InConcert Sierra.

Another program, “Music on Wheels,” brings the Chorale to seniors.

“We don’t want to add a bunch of things, we just want to keep doing what we do better and better and grow audiences,” Ken Hardin said. “We are continuing to improve the quality and level of performers we bring here. By relinquishing my role of music director to Alison, I can now focus on that.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.

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