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Dreher Concert Chorale prepares to bring Christmas cantatas to life at St. Kilian

| Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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The Dreher Concert Chorale with more than 100 members has performed Christmas concerts in the area for the last four years. David Dreher, director of musical ministries at St. Kilian Parish in Cranberry, is the conductor.

This season, the Dreher Concert Chorale will tell an old story with new songs when its members come together for three perform-ances of “Come Messiah King,” a Christmas cantata.

Conductor David Dreher will lead his troupe through the Nativity account via vocal and instrumental music, narration and videos.

“It's a performance of sight and sound,” he said, “an hour-long movie with music.”

This is the fourth year the Christmas cantatas will be held, all for a free-will offering to benefit local charities. The choir, composed of more than 100 members from high school students to octogenarians, is ecumenical.

“They're sharing their talents and drawing people to help those in need,” said Dreher, who has been director of musical ministries at St. Kilian Parish in Cranberry for 11 years.

Three months of once-a-week rehearsals go into each holiday performance. Singers practice during the week using CDs prepared by Praise Gathering Music Corp., the cantata's publisher.

“It's an awful lot of homework,” said Dreher, 61, of Marshall Township.

The group also performs a patriotic concert each year near Independence Day after another three months' practice.

The chorale developed out of a community choir when he was asked to direct a summer concert produced by Margie Rinaman of Mars in 2007.

Rinaman's choir of 160 voices and 40 musicians first came together in 1976 for a bicentennial performance called “I Love America.”

“People really responded to it,” the 84-year-old said.

A few years later, there was a clamor for an encore.

When the connection with Dreher was made, she was pleased her musical work would continue. Rinaman still performs with the group, lending her tenor voice to the choir and playing each concert's first song.

“It's a gift God has given me,” she said. “Everything I sing and play is from my heart.”

And it's with heart that each Christmas concert begins in Dreher's office as he listens to 10 to 12 CDs to find his holiday message.

“I get the tear factor going,” he said. “If I'm a blubbering baby, that's what I want. I choose what moves me the most.”

His favorite piece from this year's cantata is “Child of Heaven.”

The chorale considers the Christmas concerts as a way to pray in song. In past years, audiences have been “drawn into the story, the message and the music,” Dreher said.

He said responses from crowds of 300 to 500 have been “ecstatic.”

“If you give them something to sing about, they'll sing.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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