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Holiday habits 

by Michael Bowen

Every year the Singing Nuns of Mount St. Michael perform at the Met, their concerts ballooning right along with their ample blue sleeves. The single December concert of 1996 has grown into four this year; they're about to release their eighth CD; and they even have their own Web site ( Sister Mary Bernadette, director of the 24-member choir, modestly attributes much of the success to Edward Myers, the group's conductor and arranger for the past five years. This year, says Sister Bernadette, Myers has orchestrated an especially lush set of multilayered keyboard arrangements to accompany the sisters. (This is far more than just a bunch of nuns singing a cappella.)

The 24 members of the choir -- sopranos, second sopranos and altos, and all members of the Order of Marian Sisters of Mary, Immaculate Queen -- will offer two dozen songs in a program significantly different from those of previous years. First, says Sister Bernadette, "we'll offer a more varied program this year -- from sacred to semi-sacred to secular."

Selections thus range from "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," and Gregorian chant (Hodie Christus natus est, or "Today Christ is born") to "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "God's Love Made Visible" (in the rapid Dave Brubeck rendition). Look also for such secular crowd-pleasers as the "Carol of the Bells," "Here We Come A-Caroling," "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" -- the latter two featured in an audience sing-along, with the microphone floating among attendees.

The second new feature of this year's concert -- "and the inclusion of these new guests is providential, if I may use the term," comments the director -- are the appearances of Randy Shaw (local anchorman and country music band leader), Charles Williams (along with his Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Choir) and Chad Mitchell (legendary Spokane performer and headliner of the former Chad Mitchell Trio). Such extra resources will enable the choir of blue nuns to sing a gospel medley and a medley of international Christmas songs.

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