Holiday Concerts: The Wonder of Wintersong

There's more than traditional Christmas music at the annual Wintersong concert by the Colorado Springs Vocal Arts Ensemble.

If you appreciate flickering candles, magical buildings and powerful voices, you have to get your rear in a pew at Colorado College’s Shove Chapel for the Colorado Vocal Arts Ensemble’s Wintersong.

While you might expect an evening of traditional Christmas songs, the program isn’t limited to that. “[There is] also a strong focus on more winter solstice-type ideas and poetry, with a really strong connection to nature,” says CVAE founder, artistic director and conductor Deborah Jenkins Teske. “I think that ends up giving the concert a real texture of light and dark. It’s part of its balance, and I think the audience has come to expect that from it. They’re not just here to hear ‘Rudolph.’” 

The Romanesque Shove Chapel adds to the effect. “It has a lot of built-in mystery to it—the overall darkness of the chapel, and the hidden corners,” Teske says. Candlelight and voices coming from different parts of the chapel throughout the performance make an evocative impression. 

This year marks 15 years of Wintersong, but CVAE is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Teske founded the group for something to do while job hunting after completing her master’s in choral conducting at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  

Today, CVAE consists of 35 members—a bit larger than usual because of the upcoming concert with the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs and the Colorado Springs Chorale to celebrate the new UCCS Ent Center for the Arts in January. 

Each year, the group typically offers four regular season concerts, consisting primarily of a cappella pieces that draw from the Renaissance, the 19th century and the 20th century up to the present. 

“We do an increasing amount of contemporary music,” Teske says. “There’s so much that’s being written for our kind of group that’s really new and interesting and different.”  

This year’s Wintersong will include a composition by Eric Whitacre, whom Teske describes as a “contemporary American composer, rock-star person right now in the choral world.” There’s also a special piece called “O Adonai” by Roderick Williams that the group is bringing back.  

There’s also a bit of a surprise for regulars. “We usually use the organ in Shove just for the audience carols, but this time we’ll have a featured piece called ‘Epiphany,’ by Judith Bingham, an English composer,” Teske says. “I think it will surprise people that we’re going to include this kind of piece. It’s kind of edgy, and it ends with this big crashing organ section.”   

Wintersong 2018

Dec. 15-16, 7:30 p.m. 
Colorado College’s Shove Chapel 

Kirsten Akens
Kirsten Akens
Kirsten Akens is a contributing writer for who has written everything from art and community to sports and the great outdoors.

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