For the Innocents
Medeski, Martin and Wood with Nels Cline at the Blue Note

Orpheus Club Holiday Concert with Denyce Graves

Denyce Graves Orpheus ClubRIDGEWOOD, NJ -- Each year around this time, I make my way out to New Jersey to see my Dad sing a holiday concert with the Orpheus Club: a semi-professional men's chorus founded in 1909, many of whose members have been performing with the chorus for decades. They sing traditional carols, rock 'n' roll tunes, and music from around the world—a broad mix that's meant to appeal to everyone.

Each year, the Orpheus Club also invites a guest soloist to join them, typically a mid-career singer or instrumentalist who's won some respectable notices on secondary stages. But this year, the club somehow managed to snag mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, a legit superstar who blew me away when I saw her sing Carmen—her signature role—at the Met in 2005.

denyce graves orpheus clubAt the United Methodist Church in Ridgewood tonight, Graves—wearing a holiday-appropriate combination of crimson and jade—sang a combination of holiday songs, African-American spirituals, and operatic repertoire. She blew the roof off with her rendition of the "Habanera" from Carmen, which also gave the chorus a chance to shine. My Dad said it was one of the best moments he's experienced in his 12 years with the club.

But, the evening's most poignant moment came towards the end of the program, when conductor John Palatucci led the audience in an impromptu reading of "Let There Be Peace on Earth," mirroring thousands of similar sing-alongs happening in churches, synagogues, and other meeting places around the country this weekend:

"Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment 
And live each moment 
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me."

Orpheus Club Concert Ridgewood