At 102 years old, Vallejo Choral Society is aging gracefully. The venerable 50-voice community chorus—half of which are Benicians—is preparing for An Early” Christmas, a concert of music from the late Renaissance and Baroque, under the artistic leadership of early music specialist Derek Tam.


The Benicia concert takes place Saturday, December 7, at 7 pm, at Community Congregational Church, where last December the group performed Handel’s Messiah to a sold-out house. A second concert is scheduled for Sunday, December 8, at 3 pm, at First Presbyterian Church in Vallejo. The group also performs at the historic St. Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island on Sunday, December 15, at 2 pm, as a benefit for the Mare Island Museum.


“In the centerpiece of our program, Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Midnight Mass,” Tam explains, “the composer rearranged old French carols into a half-hour of good cheer. It’s a wonderful example of the fun side of Baroque music and a perfect evocation of the holiday season.”


The program also features Nicola Porpora’s Magnificat, performed by the VCS Women’s Choir, along with Dietrich Buxtehude’s traditional Christmas carol In dulci jubilo.


“The rest of the program is similarly uplifting,” Tam said, “with a mixture of old chestnuts, such as excerpts from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, and rarely heard pieces from the late Renaissance and Baroque.”


Accompanying the chorus is an orchestra of professional Baroque specialists playing period instruments with techniques used by musicians of the 16th and 17th centuries, according to Tam. “Their lightness of touch and improvisatory flair will add another dimension to the music.” In addition to accompanying the choral works, the orchestra will play the instrumental Pifa pastorale from Handel’s Messiah.


Benicia’s Home Chorus

Among the Benicia singers calling VCS their home chorus are Annette Balter, Diane Choquette, and Sherris Prall.


“I look forward to weekly rehearsals,” Annette said. “If I’ve had a bad day, singing makes me feel so much better!” She added that, “Everyone strives for the very best performance, and the quality of musicianship is super high. My favorite concert is our winter show celebrating the season with beautiful song.”


Diane, who fell in love with choral singing at the age of 14, said, “Over the many years I have been singing in choruses, I have met many friends and shared with them the thrill of performing beautiful music. When everything is working right, the experience is transcendent.”


VCS, a non-auditioned chorus, has something to offer everyone, from accomplished singers like Diane, to beginners. This season, Tam introduced a beginner’s sight-singing class. “Derek is a good teacher,” Diane said. “He effectively explains and demonstrates what he wants, and the chorus responds to him. He also uses humor to help us learn.”


For Sherris, “VCS is a community of people with a common goal of singing in beautiful harmony. Over snacks during rehearsal breaks we get to know each other more personally. This leads to even deeper relationships with our fellow choristers in our lives outside the choir. It’s also the level of excellence we get from the Artistic Director that makes VCS special to me.”


For more information about Vallejo Choral Society or to purchase tickets for its concerts December 7 and 8, visit, email, or call 707.653.6827.


Tickets for the benefit concert December 15 at St. Peter’s Chapel on Mare Island can be purchased at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum or the Visitor’s Bureau in the Ferry Building, or by calling 707.557.4646.





photo captions:


“The original Vallejo Choral Society” is written on the back of this historic photograph from the 1920s, which was recently discovered at a Napa estate sale.


Current VCS members pictured at the non-profit’s Reprise fundraiser held in March at Springbrook Masonic Temple, which also serves as the organization’s rehearsal hall.