Cathedral hosts ‘A Festive Spanish Christmas’

Cathedral hosts 'A Festive Spanish Christmas'

The strumming of guitars and sound of castanets will fill the air as the St. Augustine Community Chorus begins its first concert of the 2014-2015 Season, “A Festive Spanish Christmas.”

The concert concludes with portions of Handel’s “Messiah” – The Prophesy and Birth – continuing a chorus tradition first begun in 1948. The two performances of this concert are scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 1:45 p.m. Sunday at the newly renovated Cathedral Basilica on the Plaza de la Constitucion.

Director Kathleen Vande Berg has put together a program celebrating the Spanish tradition of St. Augustine as the city looks to the 450th celebration of its founding.

In addition to music provided by the classical guitarists James Kalal, Michael Havens and Evan Ruffino, the intricate movement and passion of Flamenco will be danced by Laurie Johns-Cantrell.

The accompanying musicians include the concert artists of Jacksonville and accompanists, Ray McDonald and Shannon McKay. More than 100 singers will participate as the St. Augustine Youth Chorus joins the community chorus.

Soloist and countertenor, Hector Gonzalez Toro, joins the chorus for the Spanish Christmas carols. Toro may be familiar to St. Augustine audiences from his roles in First Coast Opera’s productions “Cabaret Espanol,” “Viva Hispana,” “Voices of Love,.” “Grandi Voci” and “Cabaret Americana.”

Soprano Kandie Smith and tenor Timothy Workman will join the chorus in singing the arias and recitatives of Handel’s “Messiah.”

Currently an instructor in musical theater at the Florida School of the Arts, Smith has an impressive resume as a performing artist, enjoying a vibrant career in musical theater and operetta. Smith’s work as a voice specialist and pedagogue has spanned nearly 20 years, and she has been in frequent demand as a Master Class Presenter for universities.

Workman is the Director of Voice Studies at Florida State College in Jacksonville where he conducts the women’s and men’s choruses as well as the concert chorale. His recent performances include tenor solos in Ballet West’s production of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and Handel’s “Messiah.” He has performed as countertenor in Bach’s “Magnificat,” Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” Part’s “Passio” and Monteverdi’s “Vespers.”

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Student tickets are $5.

Tickets can be purchased at Music Matters, Carter’s Jewelry, Flowers by Shirley, Herbie Wiles Insurance, The Print Shop, Southern Horticulture, the Bell Tower Gift Shop and online at

For information, call Nell Toensmann at 484-4960.