Two of the performing agencies within the Community Music Project joined together Sunday afternoon to remember people in our area who have died within the past year. The performance took place at Christ First United Methodist Church, and was called ''A Celebration of Life: A Memorial Concert.''
Performing were the Chautauqua Chamber Singers, conducted by Rebecca Ryan, and the Jamestown Choral Society, under the leadership of Cindy Lind Hanson.
The concert was brief, lasting just over an hour, and yet it demonstrated enormous dignity. Not only had the two groups obviously rehearsed and studied their music, but the quiet and graceful manner in which one group would leave the performing area and the other would quickly take their place clearly demonstrated a purpose of dignity and poise, which a program with such an intention must have in order to be effective.
The audience arrived to find themselves looking at the 28 members of the Choral Society at the front of the church, only to find the first work sung by the Chamber Singers at the back of the church. As an Introit, they sang ''Ubi Caritas'' by Ola Gjeilo, in beautifully enunciated Latin, expressing the message that ''Where charity and love are, God is there.''
The Chamber Singers then processed quickly and quietly down the center aisle to join the Choral Society for the first of two joint anthems, the lively ''O Clap Your Hands,'' by John Rutter. The Chamber Singers and Ms. Ryan then moved directly to seats in the front few rows, while Ms. Hanson took the podium, and the Choral Society sang six works.
For those unfamiliar with the two performing ensembles, the Chamber Singers are an auditioned choir, while participation with the Choral Society is open to anyone who wishes to sing and is willing to participate in a number of rehearsals. Both serve important roles in our community's cultural life and singers often move from one group to the other, depending on their ability to attend the more frequent rehearsals of the Chamber Singers.
The disadvantage for the Choral Society is that their membership is more fluid. In the case of this concert, for example, only six of the singers were men, which led to some beautiful singing, but singing which was often unbalanced, with tenors and basses needing to sing with more force in order to try to balance the sound of the sopranos and altos, who outnumbered them more than four to one.
The society sang traditional music, a baroque anthem, a lovely contemporary work by John Carter, and a similar selection. Violinist Kirstie Hanson provided a moving violin accompaniment to J.S. Bach's ''Jesu is My Joy Forever,'' and Jack Hemink accompanied effectively on piano and organ.
They then moved to the outside of the church's pews, while the Chamber Singers moved up the center aisle to almost immediately take their place.
They sang six works of their own, beginning with Latin American or Native American-inspired works by Gerardo Guivara and Ernani Aguiar, which demonstrated a mastery of complex rhythm and excellent enunciation of the rhythmic words. Jennifer Schruers was their accompanist.
All of the group's selections were beautiful, although I personally found it distracting that the words as printed in the program, to ''When I Think of You,'' by Laura Teasdale often didn't seem to match what the singers were singing.
At the end of that set of pieces, the Chorale Society rejoined the Chamber Singers, this time with Ms. Hanson conducting, and together they filled the church with the big sound of ''The Awakening,'' by Joseph M. Martin.
All of the singers were well prepared. All of the performed music was appropriate in words and music to be a memorial to departed friends and neighbors, and the evening was a warm and welcoming event on a cold and wet November afternoon.
The next concert in the Community Music Project's 2012-13 season will be Jan. 4, when the Chautauqua Chamber Singers will perform their annual farewell to the holiday season with their traditional ''Twelfth Night'' concert.