By Jann Wiswall
No one quite knows for certain when the Ellicottville Community Choir first performed its Christmas Cantata. “It was either 1971 or ’72,” said Nancy Rogan, who serves on the Cantata organizing committee.
What is certain, however, is that the choir began in the former Methodist church on Park Square under the leadership of beloved choir director Marcia Barto, who died this past May. This year’s annual Christmas Cantata will be dedicated to her memory.
Barto started the choir with members of the Methodist churches in Ellicottville and Machias, though others were welcomed to participate. In 1976, when Ellicottville’s Methodist and Presbyterian churches merged to become the United Church of Ellicottville, those congregations continued the tradition under her direction.
From the outset, Rogan said, the choir was “always open to anyone who liked to sing — whether they were affiliated with a church or not.”
This year, 40 people from all over the area who enjoy singing will perform “Behold the Star,” a newly composed cantata by Lloyd Larson.
Annette Ieda, who had been singing with the choir for several years, took over as conductor in 2010 after Barto fell ill. Ieda, a retired music teacher and remarkably talented musician, is proud of the efforts of the group, few of whom sing with any regularity during the rest of the year.
“Working with a 35- or 40-member choir was always something I wanted to do,” she said. “Until I got started with this group, though, I didn’t know how much I’d enjoy every minute of it. The community is so supportive of us and willing to step in and help make the Cantata the best it can be.”
This year, the choir will perform twice on Dec. 15 to ensure that most community members can attend at least once.
The first performance will be at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 6360 Route 242 in Ellicottville. The afternoon performance will begin with the St. Paul’s Dulcimer Choir, followed by a brief intermission before concluding with the Cantata.
The second performance will be at 7 p.m. at the United Church of Ellicottville at 53 Elizabeth St. It will open with the Celtic Group “Versatility,” followed by the Cantata. A reception in the church’s Fellowship Hall will follow.
The goodwill offerings taken during intermission at each performance will help defray the cost of the music. The balance will be contributed to the Ellicottville Community Food Pantry.