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Ancora imparo has new CD of holiday music

DeenBess Sherman

Deena Bess Sherman

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Updated: February 15, 2013 1:03PM

As I listened for the first time to the new holiday CD by Ancora imparo, my first thought was, “Is this how angels sound?”

Ancora imparo began when one of Meg Papadolias’ former students, Elise Hankins Clever, voiced the wish of so many who have worked with Papodolias: “I wish I could sing with you again.”

Papadolias told Clever that if a group gathered, she would lead it. Eight former members of West Aurora’s A Cappella Choir, who graduated between 1992 and 2012, jumped at the chance and Ancora imparo was born. The name means “still I am learning,” a quote attributed to Michelangelo. It’s the philosophy of these life-long learners who meet each week to continue learning together.

Their holiday collection is titled: “Some of My Best Friends . . . . Songs for the Winter Season.” On the cover is a picture of a snow angel. A previous CD by WAHS A Cappella alumni was titled “Some of My Best Friends are Angels.” Papadolias explained, “I like to think singers can be angels by sharing their music.”

What I find striking as I listen to the songs they have included is that they choose what is difficult — not just musically, but also in terms of truly understanding this time of year. Joy is something we find, not in the absence of adversity, but as we walk through it and continue to grow. For most people there is a melancholy in the cold December breeze as we remember past holidays. For too many people I love, this will be the first Christmas missing a family member who will never again share a holiday dinner at their tables.

The second track on the CD is an original composition by Papadolias, which she based on the Rachel Field poem, “Something Told the Wild Geese.” The poem begins:

Something told the wild geese

It was time to go,

Though the fields lay golden

Something whispered, “snow.”

The composition was inspired by Chris Patterson and the Valparaiso University’s men’s a cappella group, Vu Vox, that sang at his funeral last January. Papadolias was impressed by the way Chris and his fellow musicians would “seek out opportunities to make music and to arrange it freely and without restraints.” After the funeral, she took the words of Field’s poem and created a piece of music for voices, piano and clarinet.

She began the project of recording this CD last June. “The best thing was to begin with an idea about a piece of music and watch it grow as we worked on it and recorded it,” said Papadolias.

I asked what her greatest challenge had been. She didn’t hesistate at all as she said, “working around everyone’s busy schedules!”

The CD is $15 and is available at Pockets Restaurants, 2933 Kirk Rd. and 1330 N. Orchard, Aurora; Kiss the Sky, 180 First St., Batavia; the David Pierce Arts Center, 20 E. Downer Place, Aurora; and the District 129 administration office. Profits go to the A+ Foundation’s Meg Papadolias Endowment Fund, which supports the district’s choral music programs.

Papadolias said her goal was to create an experience of “feel good music” that was not exclusively Christmas, but I think she did so much more. Thanks to her training, the voices we hear truly sound like angels and the while many of the traditional songs bring comfort, there is a maturity in these arrangements that reminds us that we are not only bound to the past, but must also walk fearlessly into the future. Even when our hearts ache for what is no more. This is a time of year when we must renew our hope and strength by looking to the divine and proclaiming with Michelangelo, “Ancora imparo!”

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