Friday, November 30, 2018

Morris Choral Society’s Annual Holiday Spectacular “Songs: Earthly & Divine” December 8 & 9

The Morris Choral Society (MCS) presents its Annual Holiday Spectacular “Songs: Earthly & Divine” in two performances, Saturday December 8 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday December 9 at 3:00 p.m. at St. Virgil’s Church, 250 Speedwell Avenue in Morris Plains. Tickets range from $15 to $25 and may be purchased at

The 70-member chorus will be led by Music Director Jason Tramm, showcasing spirited and inspirational holiday music designed to delight the entire family. The program reflects 300 years of great music from Johan Sebastian Bach to Irving Berlin.

The centerpiece of the concert is Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, featuring the talented harpist, Stephanie Babirak. Written in 1942, the composition reflects America’s influence on the evolving musical style of Britten who was just completing a three-year residency in New York City. This popular melodic work, which recounts the Christmas story, was inspired by a collection of English poems written between the 14th and 16th centuries.

The chorus will also perform new settings of “Deck the Halls” and “The Holly and the Ivy” as well as holiday selections by John Rutter, Irving Berlin, Michael John Trotter and David Eddleman. The program includes the New Jersey premiere of Magnificat, a new composition by R. Wayne Walters, the founder and director emeritus of the Morris Choral Society.

Joining MCS for the holiday concert will be the popular sextet Express Male, formed five years ago as an independent vocal ensemble and now a regular feature at MCS concerts. The members of the group are John Collins of Raritan, Bud Leppard of Morristown, Chip Wood of Basking Ridge, Bill Walter of Oak Ridge, Albert Perkins of Philadelphia, Wayne Walters of Parsippany, and Rob Walters of Long Valley. Pianist Ken Rapp of Morristown is the accompanist. 

The Morris Choral Society’s Annual Holiday Spectacular will be held at St. Virgil’s Church, 250 Speedwell Avenue, in Morris Plains on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 9 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and $15 for children under 18. For more information and to reserve tickets, call 908-459-5223 or visit


The Morris Choral Society (MCS), now celebrating its 45th year is one of Northern New Jersey's oldest and most active and beloved not-for-profit arts organizations dedicated to enhancing community life by performing and presenting the highest quality classical choral repertoire from the last three centuries.

Since its founding in 1973, MCS has dedicated itself to the residents of Morris County and has played a significant role in Northern New Jersey's artistic community, nominated by its peers for the 2018 New Jersey People's Choice Award, Choral Group Division.

Traditionally each performance season includes two major concerts as well as several concert appearances at many of Morristown's annual celebrations: Independence Day, the 911 Observance, the Holiday Festival on the Green and First Night.

The MCS has performed with Judy Collins in her Christmas Show; with Dave Brubeck in La Fiesta de la Posada, at the Community Theatre at MPAC. The Morris Choral Society has received international recognition performing successful concerts in England in 1990, Ireland in 1994, Scotland and Wales in 1996, France in 1998 and Italy in the summer of 2000. The MCS has been represented by "ambassadorial" choral contingents in multi-choral units in Eastern Europe in 1997 and 2000.

Over the past 5 decades the MCS has assembled a vast and varied musical repertoire, the cornerstone of which is an impressive library of music from the Renaissance to the present. The MCS is funded in part by the Arts Council of the Morris Area through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding has also been provided by the Arts Council of the Morris Area/Dodge Foundation Partnership. To learn more about the Morris Choral Society and its programming visit


Morris Choral Society's Music Director Jason Tramm is recognized as one of the most dynamic young conductors on the podium today. Appointed to the position in 2016, Tramm has led the MCS in the New Jersey premiere of Karl Jenkin's "The Peacemakers" in 2017 as part of MCS Spring Concert "Peace, Triumphant Peace. "

Tramm also serves as Director of Music in Residence of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for the past 11 years, where he leads the choral, orchestral, and oratorio performances in the 6500-seat historic Great Auditorium, appearing in two National Public Radio broadcasts with organ virtuoso, Gordon Turk and orchestra. The 2009 HDTV broadcast presentation with PBS affiliate NJN, "Verdi Requiem: Live from Ocean Grove" with Tramm at the podium, garnered a regional Emmy Award nomination.

Tramm is an Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University, College of Communication and the Arts where he leads the University Choir, the Chamber Choir and teaches voice and conducting. Tramm currently serves as principal conductor of the MidAtlantic Opera with whom he made his Carnegie Hall debut.

A frequent guest conductor, Tramm has led operatic and symphonic performances in Italy, Romania, Albania, and in Hungary, where he recorded an album of rarely heard French operatic arias with the Szeged Symphony.  He was Guest Conductor for the Narnia Festival (Narni, Italy) during the 2017 season.   Guest conducting/Masterclass engagements for the 2018 season include the Adelphi Orchestra, the Long Island Concert Orchestra, The Mid-Manhattan Performing Arts Foundation, Light Opera of New Jersey, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


Featured guest, harpist Stephanie Babirak has been lauded by The Huffington Post as “seraphic” and “a lovely harpist,” Ms. Babirak is both a classical and contemporary musician as well as a much sought-after teacher of the harp. Her performance experience is as extensive as it is diverse: including engagements at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, rock concerts at Terminal 5 and warehouse spaces with Brooklyn LoftOpera.

Ms. Babirak has performed professionally with orchestras, chamber groups, vocal ensembles as well as in the recording studio working for Indie and major label artists including The Joy Formidable, Adele, and Andra Day. Her playing has been featured on USA Network's television series "Mr. Robot." She holds a M.M. from Mannes School of Music where she studied with Susan Jolles, and a B.M. from the conservatory at SUNY Purchase where she also studied ballet at the dance conservatory.


Accompanying the chorus is pianist Michael Shane Wittenburg who is a highly regarded conductor, soloist, and orchestral player. His extensive credits include performances with the celebrated Ensemble Tremblay, Amore Opera, Hudson Valley Chorale, and the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera.

Photo: The Morris Choral Society will headline the Holiday Spectacular “Songs Earthly and Devine” at St. Virgil’s Church in Morris Plains on Saturday, December 8, and Sunday, December 9.

Photo Credit Vincent Marchase.

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