Ray Cornils Reflects on Christmas with Cornils Past

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Ray Cornils 12 Highlights from his work in Maine

Ray Cornils Reflects on Christmas with Cornils Past

Ray Cornils’ final performance as Portland’s Municipal Organist will be the Kotzschmar Christmas with Cornils concert on Tuesday, December 19 at Merrill Auditorium. This annual concert, which Mr. Cornils has presented for the past 28 years, occupies a special place in his heart.

“There is Christmas music literature which dates back more than 1,000 years,” explained Mr. Cornils. “The material is vast and covers an array of styles, nationalities, and genres – it is one of my favorite programs to present to the Southern Maine community.”

A signature of Ray’s take on the Christmas concert is the collection of performance groups he gathers each year to participate. Handbell choirs, vocal groups, and brass ensembles have all combined with the Kotzschmar organ one season or another to produce exhilarating combinations of sound within the context of Christmas music. Add to this the voices of over 1,000 singing concert attendees and the result is a rich sound that exists for one unique night near Christmastime.



Big group sing moments, such as in the familiar carol “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” are inherently powerful experiences, but Cornils reflects on the emotional dynamism of gentler pieces, such as the Welsh lullaby Suo Gan, which he finds “beguilingly charming.”

Click here to listen to Suo Gan performed by Chanticleer.

Mr. Cornils elaborates, “There is an energy – a chemistry – that is created when everyone joins in singing this music that creates unexpected moments of joy for me at each concert.”

But what moves Mr. Cornils the most is the spirit of the concertgoers.

“Christmas can be such a busy time for everyone between shopping, cooking, and attending holiday activities. This concert gives people a moment to settle, reflect, and be present – to listen away from the rush of life during the holidays,” stated Mr. Cornils. “It truly is the very best time of the year.”