Lopez Sound’s “What Sweeter Music” celebrates the season

Lopez Sound. Back row, l to r: JC Marean, Lane Langford, Ann Palmer, Gary Alexander, John Butte. Seated: l to r: Christine Langley, Stephanie Hylton.

Lopez Sound, Lopez Island’s very own a cappella group, has been performing each year around this time for seven years. They have filled the simple wooden building of the Center Church with gorgeous layered melodies and harmonies with the greatest gift they have: their voices. This year, Lopez Sound is presenting a series called “What Sweeter Music.”

“We took that line from the opening line of a John Rutter piece we are doing, called “What Sweeter Music,” JC Marean, bass, and leader of the group, said. “It’s our title track, so to speak.”

The group is made up of seven individuals currently. There are two sopranos: Ann Palmer, and Christine Langley; alto Stephanie Hylton; baritone John Butte, tenors Lane Langford and Gary Alexander, and bass JC Marean. The group usually has two altos, but with the passing of Lopez Sound member Leta Marshall earlier this year, the group is open to considering candidates for alto.

“This year is a little different,” Marean commented, “as the new music we’ve incorporated includes another movement from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, The Arabian Dance Suite, arranged by Stephanie Hylton for seven voices,” Marean said. “We are also doing two Francis Poulenc pieces, which are taken from a group of songs entitled ‘Four Short Prayers of St. Francis.’ We’ve all pitched in at one time or another to arrange pieces; there’s a lot of talent in this bunch.”

Stephanie Hylton, who has arranged before for the group, found that the most challenging thing about the Tchaikovsky re-arrangement was the voicing.

“The complexity of it was making voices do the work of instruments,” Hylton said. “Instruments like strings don’t have to breathe like voices do. I had to allow for that and yet get the imprint of the original composer.”

Those that have never heard Lopez Sound perform are in for a treat. There is quite a mix of music, from carols, both religious and seasonal, to more contemporary pieces.

“Our first section will feature some familiar songs, and some not so familiar,” Marean said. “Then the next section we call the weather report, which mostly features tunes regarding winter weather. The third section features Tchaikovsky; we’ll be doing three of those. And then the fourth shows off more contemporary songs, like “The Christmas Song” popularized by Mel Torme.”

The performances are over two weeks. They perform Friday Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m., and that evening at 7:30 p.m. Next week, Friday, Dec. 18 they perform again at 7:30 p.m. as well as Saturday Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is by donation, and reserved seating is recommended. Tickets are available at Islehaven Books, Blossom Grocery, and Paper Scissors on the Rock.