Cincinnati Boychoir‘s Winter Showcase: “Join the Parranda!” features the various ensembles that make up the choir: Apprentices, JourneyMen, DeltaChoir, and Ambassadors. Each of these ensembles features boys with a range of musical experiences. All receive training and rehearsals that make this concert a worthwhile trip to the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
The musical numbers are interwoven with author Lydia Gil reading her children’s book, “Mimi’s Parranda/La parranda de Mimi.” The story highlights and explains La parranda, a Puerto Rican Christmas holiday tradition, through the narrative of Mimi. “La parranda” she says, “is like caroling, only better!” This tradition provides a framework for the musical program.
The tradition, as it is explained in the program and in the book, is when a group of friends and family surprises a household during the Christmas holidays by singing and playing instruments, usually after 10 p.m. A party, replete with good food, constant music making, dancing and bombas, lasts for a couple of hours until the recently surprised household joins the parranderos as they move on to the next house.
This Boychoir concert brings la parranda to life by using a variety of staging techniques, rotating the ensembles, and encouraging the audience to clap along in a number of songs, and participate in a sing-along medley of “Deck the Halls,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.”
A real highlight of this concert is the band, the parranderos, who elevate the festivities with drums (Hector Brignoni), guitar and singing (Marcos J. Rodriguez), cuatro/small guitar (Eric Lamboy), and percussive instruments like the guiro (Liza M. Sanchez). Not only are they terrific musicians, but watching how much fun they’re having playing together with the ensembles is infectious. The boys are having a blast singing with them!
The program is conducted with joy and encouragement by Artistic Director, Jason Alexander Holmes and Associate Directors Lisa Peters and Angelo Sylvester. Shiloh Roby provides stellar accompaniment on the piano. Guest soloist Kathy Wade led several numbers with sophisticated vocals with Boychoir members providing beautiful harmonic backup.
The story is ultimately about the power of friendship and caring. The music features a few classic favorites, mixed with Spanish holiday songs such as “Alegría Alegría, Alegría” and “Feliz Navidad,” and one dynamic Nigerian Christmas song featuring Boychoir members on additional percussion. Whether the Boychoir is singing acapella or with full accompaniment, this joyous family-friendly concert has wide appeal for young and old.
Kari E. McLean is a returning wanderer getting reacquainted with the area and its exemplary arts programming. A theatre aficionado, a coffee addict, and a Fiona fan, she keeps turning up in spots all over the Tri-State like a good penny.