Jim Henry, chair of the Department of Music at UMSL

Jim Henry recently performed at Carnegie Hall and will direct UMSL’s University Singers when they perform with the Bach Society of St. Louis on Dec. 17 at Powell Hall. Henry is an associate professor of music and chair of the Department of Music at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Ask Jim Henry what he did Thanksgiving weekend and the answer is casual, almost an aside.

“I sang at Carnegie Hall,” said Henry, associate professor of music at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

He is an old hand at what is every musical performer’s dream; he’s performed there four times. Most recently, he sang with quartets The Gas House Gang and Crossroads, as part of the 2013 Barbershop Festival.

When he’s not harmonizing on world-famous stages, Henry is conductor of the University Singers and chair of the Department of Music at UMSL. The end of the fall semester is always busy with preparations for holiday concerts, but this year involves a special honor: the University Singers will join the Bach Society of St. Louis Chorus at the society’s annual Christmas Candlelight Concert at Powell Hall. And that’s what really gets him talking.

“This is a great opportunity for our students who perform at Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, which is an incredible venue, the chance to go some place as historic and renowned as Powell Hall,” Henry said. “It’s a musician’s dream.”

The candlelight concert comes after months of preparation on Dec. 17. The event joins two of St. Louis’ long-time choral super groups. The Bach Society chorus is a 60-member choir that blends volunteer and professional vocalists. The Christmas Candlelight Concert is a favorite St. Louis holiday tradition, with a frequently sold-out auditorium, and getting an invitation to perform is an honor for the University Singers.

In February, the Bach Society joined the University Singers for a performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” at the Touhill. That collaboration led directly to the UMSL group’s invitation to the December show, said James Richards, professor of music and senior associate dean for academics and scholarship for the College of Fine Arts and Communication at UMSL. Richards is also a principal violinist in the Bach Society Orchestra.

For many student singers, this will be their first time performing at one of St. Louis’ oldest and grandest music halls.

“Powell is not Carnegie, but for young musicians, it has a lot of the same feeling,” Richards said. “You go backstage and walk along a corridor and see signed pictures of all the great artists have come through there. Being backstage in this atmosphere is part of learning to be an artist. There’s something special about making music in the place with this depth of artistic tradition.”

Musical selections will include the rousing “Gloria” by John Rutter, the witty “Musicological Journey through the Twelve Days of Christmas” and traditional holiday tunes. A candlelight processional will also be a highlight of the evening.

Tickets for the Bach Society’s Christmas Candlelight Concert are available for $25 to $75 from the Powell Hall Box Office. Call 314-534-1700 or visit www.bachsociety.org/purchase/concert_tickets/christmas_tickets.

Henry will also lead Ambassadors of Harmony for the 130-plus-voice chorus’ annual “Sounds of the Season” concert Dec. 13-15 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL. Visit the Touhill website for performance times and ticket information.

Media Coverage:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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