Dolce Canto will present its typically nontraditional selection of seasonal music this weekend with its holiday concert, "Light, Beauty, Peace."

"Every piece we're singing on the program in some way or another ties into the theme of light," Peter Park, artistic director of the auditioned choir.

The group, which has performed in New York and South Korea, is focused on presenting new material to its audiences, whether it's literally new or not regularly performed in Missoula. The only songs on the program that it's sung before are Dolly Parton's "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" in an arrangement by Craig Hella Johnson and Morten Lauridsen's "O Nata Lux."

The time period of the compositions ranges some 450 years, yet Park noted that with a few exceptions, almost all have either living composers or arrangers.

Of the contemporary composers, Park said he sees some common traits. 

Joan Szymko's piece, "Light, Beauty, Peace," is based on a Chinese proverb. Vytautas Miškinis' "Light, My Light" takes its words from Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.

The sounds are often exploratory as well. That Miškinis composition is written for choir and soprano saxophone. Lawrence Duncan, of long-running ensemble the Drum Brothers, will play on that piece as well as "O Nata Lux," by Thomas Tallis. Arranger Christian Forshaw updated the Renaissance tune by adding a section for improvised saxophone, which Park said helps create a "mystical experience."

Eric Whitacre, a Minnesota composer, is known for "exploring new harmonies and colors," Park said.

"They all have the same common goal of moving people," Park said.

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The choir of some 20 community members range in age from their 20s to their 70s, and some have professional music backgrounds.

The choir typically takes applications throughout the year and make decisions in the spring about the coming year's roster. Park is "happy to share that we don't have a lot of turnover," and still retain some founding members.

The nonprofit choir was formed 17 years ago by Park and friends, who started gathering informally to sing music they were interested in that other groups weren't singing at the time. Park said it developed organically from get-togethers to a concert, then a follow-up, into its present incarnation, which has performed at Carnegie Hall and undertaken a tour of South Korea.

"We hadn't even intended any of that when we started, but we're thrilled about the journey that our group has taken," Park said.

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Entertainment editor for the Missoulian.