Many local concerts feature traditional European carols during this holiday season, but the next Candlelight Concerts program features a group that comes from Europe. The Germany-based vocal ensemble known as Calmus performs on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre.

It will do some of the carols you expect to hear at such concerts, such as Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” The program is actually quite diverse, though, presenting music from various countries that ranges from the 14th century to the present.


Surely it helps that the five members of Calmus have voices that technically encompass quite a range. The four male voices are countertenor, tenor, baritone and bass; and the one female voice is a soprano.

It also certainly helps that these vocalists are from a German city, Leipzig, whose previous inhabitants include Bach, Mendelssohn and Robert and Clara Schumann. Indeed, the group’s members graduated from one of that city’s most venerable educational institutions, the St. Thomas Church Choir School. Formed in 1999 and with a membership that has changed a bit over the years, Calmus has gained a lot of experience singing music from the Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic eras.

That repertory is to be expected considering the group’s musical heritage, but Calmus also has considerable experience with new music; and besides contemporary classical music, this includes pop and jazz.

Such modern sounds have been facilitated by collaborations with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, Rascher Saxophone Quartet and the Lautten Compagney Berlin. Also, Calmus has commissioned new works by composers including Steffen Schleiermacher, Bernd Franke, Harald Banter, Wolfram Buchenberg, Mathew Rosenblum, Bill Dobbins and Michael Denhoff.

That activity has resulted in awards recognition including being the winner of the International Robert Schumann Choral competition, taking the top prize in an a cappella contest in Germany, and winning the ECCO Klassik Award.

Recordings and tours have taken its sound to even wider audiences. In that regard, the group made its Carnegie Hall debut in 2010.

What all this means for the upcoming Candlelight concert is that the audience will hear an eclectic program featuring music from Germany, England, Canada, Ireland and Puerto Rico. Because the musical selections are short, this also means that there are a lot of pieces to be heard.

The selections from Germany include “O Tannenbaum,” which dates back to the 16th century. Moving ahead to the 18th century, Bach is represented by “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” and “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein.”

From England, selections include the 16th-century “Coventry Carol”; from Ireland, turn-of-the-20th-century composer William Grattan Flood’s “Wexford Carol”; and from Canada, the 17th-century “Huron Carol.”

Not everything is from Europe. From Puerto Rico, selections include the traditional “De tierra lejana venimos.”

And not everything is traditional. Composer John Tavener, who died in 2013, is represented by "Today the Virgin."

For that matter, not everything on this program is within the Christian tradition. Selections representing the Jewish tradition include Menashe Ravina’s “Hanukkah.”

Calmus performs on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at Howard Community College’s Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Tickets are $40 and $10 for students. Candlelight also has a One Buy One program through which each paying adult may get a free ticket for one child ages 9 to 17. Call 410-997-2324 or go to candlelightconcerts.org.