It’s December and the long-awaited and anticipated holiday season has once again arrived at Caramoor, known for events that bring the festive spirit in style and feature music, delicious tea and refreshments, and even a visit from Santa for families.
ModernMedieval Voices, an all-female vocal trio, brings to Caramoor the wondrous sounds of medieval chant and polyphony in a holiday program, “A Midwinter Feast,” Saturday, Dec. 14, at 2 and 5 p.m. The program includes “There is No Rose,” “A Virgin Unspotted” and “Green Groweth the Holly,” attributed to Henry VIII, as well as new arrangements of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “The Holly and the Ivy.”
“A Midwinter Feast” will include new settings of medieval texts, including a commission by British composer Andrew Lovett, “Winter Wakeneth,” as well as the premiere of a setting by Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek of the medieval poem, “There is no Rose,” sung to the tune of an ancient Irish folk ballad “The Lamentations of Deidre.”
“ModernMedieval Voices was created by Ms. Horner-Kwiatek, a former member of the world-renowned vocal quartet Anonymous 5,” said Kathy Schuman, Caramoor’s vice president for artistic programming and executive producer. “Jacqui approached me about this female vocal trio in 2018 after she performed here with Tenet in our production of Handel’s ‘Atalanta.’ The other two wonderful singers [Eliza Bagg and Martha Cluver] have also appeared here with different groups. Their program of beloved English medieval and Renaissance carols, as well as new settings of medieval texts, will be a great follow-up to our Christmas programs the last two years by Tenet and New York Polyphony.”
Roanne Wilcox, director of the Rosen House, said the Renaissance-era décor of Rosen House’s Music Room is “the perfect setting for the program featuring medieval chants and Renaissance carols. The Rosen House will be open for self-guided tours between the two performances, with docents on hand to tell the stories of the Renaissance families who originally owned some of the objects in the Music Room.”
On Sunday, Dec. 15, at noon and again at 3 p.m., Santa Claus will fill the Rosen House with holiday cheer, giving little ones an adventure with a game of I Spy and Santa or Two in the Music Room. The program will also include a 30-minute concert of favorite holiday songs. Those who plan to attend are reminded to bring cameras to capture all the special moments.
“For young families, the Santa Visits the Rosen House event on Dec. 15 is a great way to celebrate the season with little ones,” Wilcox said. “As children enter the grand Music Room, they will find about 20 Santas hidden throughout the room. After everyone is seated, there’s a short concert with fun and festive music including a singalong, and then Santa drops by for a visit, and he is truly larger than life. Seriously, he’s about 7 feet tall. Everyone has a chance to sit on Santa’s lap for a photo, then stop by for milk and cookies on the way out.”
Caramoor’s legendary Holiday Tea Musicales, for many the beginning of the holiday season, feature musicians, festive decorations, a chance to sing along, and a sumptuous tea service in the Music Room of the Rosen House. Participants enjoy an assortment of finger sandwiches, holiday treats and a variety of teas, or hot chocolate for the little ones. Events throughout the month at Caramoor are known to fill up, and those who plan to attend are reminded to book early.
Upcoming Holiday Tea Musicale dates and performers are Thursday and Friday, Dec. 19 and 20, with soprano Meredith Lustig and pianist and baritone Michael Axtell; and an already sold-out performance Dec. 21 by Lustig and Axtell.
“We are having a wonderful time decorating the Rosen House for the season,” Wilcox commented. “We do something a little bit different each year to delight guests who make the Holiday Tea Musicales an annual tradition. This year, we are using some natural materials from our gardens, keeping the Rosens’ vision for the house in mind. We always ask ourselves, ‘Would Walter and Lucie have loved it?’ Working with me is a phenomenal team that includes floral designer Mary Lou Pappas and decorator Marcelle Carpentieri.”
The Holiday Tea Musicale “is an entire afternoon at Caramoor,” Wilcox said. “We begin with a concert of holiday music. Each artist, from classical to contemporary, brings their own flair to the program, and the audience joins in with a singalong for the finale. Next, we take a tour of the first floor of Rosen House. We talk about Walter and Lucie Rosen, why they built a Mediterranean-style villa in the middle of northern Westchester and how they founded the Caramoor music festival, which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year.”
The Rosen House is filled with art and objects from the Renaissance, the 17th and 18th centuries, Asian art, and objects Walter Rosen commissioned specifically for Caramoor. Each object has a story, and there are many docents on hand to talk about the details. Guests can learn as much as they like or just walk through the Rosen House at their own pace. After the tour, the traditional afternoon tea is served in the Music Room.
“People often tell us their holiday season begins at Caramoor, and I think it’s because the Rosen House is spectacularly beautiful and authentic,” Wilcox said. “All of the art, objects and furnishings are original, yet the house feels warm and welcoming, and every time you visit you will see something you never noticed before. That’s why people keep coming back year after year.”
Those who visit the Rosen House during December are invited to spread cheer and hope to families in need by bringing a new, unwrapped toy to leave at the Toys 4 Tots drop-off in the Summer Dining Room.
While events during the holidays are among the highlights of Caramoor’s year, planning continues behind the scenes for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. Caramoor’s spring season will start up in mid-March. Among the highlights are April concerts by three world-class pianists — Brad Mehldau, Stephen Hough and Aaron Diehl.
“We are almost finished putting together the summer season, which will be announced in February,” Schuman said. “We have lots of exciting things planned for our 75th anniversary season.” In addition, Schuman said, the progress being made outdoors on renovations of the Caramoor campus is on schedule and ready to be revealed in 2020.
For tickets and more information, call 232-9555 or visit caramoor.org.