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Posted December 18, 2008 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Victorian tidings: Afternoon tea, concert to be held at historic hotel

Master Works Tea 1
Betty Karol Wilson, conductor of Masterworks Chorus, poses in her victorian garb inside the Hotel Strasburg on Tuesday. Masterworks Chorus is sponsoring a Christmas tea and performance Saturday at the hotel. Rich Cooley/Daily

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By Linwood Outlaw III -- Daily Staff Writer

STRASBURG -- Mrs. Santa Claus and her helpers will be visiting Hotel Strasburg a few days before Christmas for some refreshments and classical music entertainment -- Victorian style.

For the first time in its history, the Masterworks Chorus of the Shenandoah Valley will host "A Victorian Christmas Tea" event at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the historic hotel at 213 S. Holliday St. The event's location comes as no coincidence, as Hotel Strasburg is an actual Victorian facility. The hotel was originally built as a private hospital in 1902.

"We thought it would be a wonderful holiday opportunity for people to come towards the end of the month to bring in their wives and their daughters and granddaughters to a lovely afternoon tea," said chorus conductor Betty Karol Wilson. "We thought it would be nice to have a tradition of an intimate rendition of music and celebration ... We're thinking this is going to become an annual tradition. And, we just wanted to start with something kind of small and modest this year and see what sort of response we got to it. A tea [party] is a great place for ladies of all ages, from little, young women in their Christmas dresses to ladies in their mature years."

Wilson said she developed the idea of hosting the Victorian event based on her prior musical experiences in Boston.

"For many years, I sang with the Boston Pops Orchestra [during the Christmas holidays.] And, one of the things I noticed being a part of the chorus there was that people like to have a Christmas tradition that they can bring their family to," Wilson said. "So, I thought, 'well, what can we do here in Shenandoah County that would be something on a much smaller scale?'"

The chorus is expecting a crowd of about 50 people, Wilson said. Tickets for the event are $25 for adults and $12 for children ages 5 to 11. The event will feature a buffet of finger foods and sweets and musical performances from members of the chorus. Mrs. Santa Claus and carolers will also appear, as will local magician Ralph McPhail, Wilson said.

It has already been a busy December for the 50-member chorus, as it recently wrapped up its concert series held earlier this month in Strasburg, Woodstock and New Market. The shows drew more than 500 people, something chorus members consider a great accomplishment.

"That's about 150 people more than we have had in the past," Wilson said. "December is always a very busy month for any singing group because people enjoy hearing Christmas carols."

Wilson said about eight members of the Masterworks Chorus of the Shenandoah Valley will be on hand to perform songs that would have been sung in the Victorian period, including such selections as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" and "Oh Come All Ye Faithful."

The chorus will also look to perform songs that will appeal to its younger audience members.

"I'm sure with children in the room, somewhere we'll sneak in something like 'Jingle Bells,' which is also Victorian, or 'Rudolph [the Red-nosed Reindeer.]' What's Christmas without a little bit of that child [oriented] music?" Wilson said.

Wilson said the event will also be "a lovely chance to have an opportunity to be close to the performers."

"In a small setting, we can sing right at your table. Rather than in a concert setting, where we might be in the front of the church and you might be several yards away from us," Wilson said. "So, it's nice to have the music right up close.

Guests who attend Saturday's event may also learn a few lessons about tea etiquette.
"For someone who's bringing their granddaughter, I think that will be a very special moment for the granddaughter and grandmother to have tea together at Christmas," said Wilson, a Richmond native.

The Masterworks chorus will hold two more concert series in March and May. The concert series in March will feature songs centered around the theme of love, while the series in May will feature the music of Mozart. The chorus will begin rehearsing in January for its spring season.

Singers in the area who would like to join the chorus can contact Wilson at 740-8841. For additional information, you can also visit its Web site at www.masterworkschorus.com. The Masterworks chorus is in its 12th season.

Contact Linwood Outlaw III at loutlaw@nvdaily.com

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