Singer Kurt Ollmann has been a professional vocalist for decades now, best known for his work with the late, great Leonard Bernstein. He has called Savannah home for several years now, and has been wowing audiences throughout the city with his memorable baritone and incredible vocal abilities.
Ollmann is currently preparing for an eclectic afternoon of Christmas music at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah, where musicians Kelly Blackmarr, Bill Smith, Sara Breyfogle, Rebecca Flaherty, and Ray Williams will accompany him in presenting holiday music from around the world. The concept was something, Ollmann says, that was inspired by his travels over the years and his various musical endeavors.
“There are some songs that people definitely won’t have heard, but then there are others that are very familiar,” Ollmann tells Connect of what audiences can expect.
Among the songs planned for the program include an anonymous Mexican baroque cantata, which he says was written for violin but will be presented with flutes.
“It was discovered as an anonymous [piece] in a pile somewhere in a cathedral,” he explains. “I was in Mexico City to do a production of Little Women, and the music director of the project had made a recording of Mexican baroque Christmas music. That’s how I found it.”
There are Dutch and Norwegian Christmas songs in the show as well, in addition to some compositions that local audiences might be more familiar with—including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” But it’s the lesser known music that Ollmann is most excited to present to the audience, as he feels it’s important to perform Christmas music from other countries and cultures.
“So much of the music we hear at Christmas is overexposed. Not only do we know the songs, but we know the versions of the songs. I’m really tired of all of that stuff,” he says with a laugh.
“I also love working with other languages. There’s a Norwegian song in the show as well—I found this beautiful song from the late 19th century. It’s really beautiful—it sort of has an inevitable melody and mood.”
The goal, he says, was to have a show that “felt like a Christmas concert but wasn’t all hackneyed.”
“There’s also a choir involved [in the concert],” he adds. Blackmarr put together a group of singers to comprise the choir, who will perform throughout the event including a mid-show Christmas song by legendary sibling folk trio The Roches.
“I wanted it to be quite varied and fun, and not stuffy,” he says, adding that there will also be a southern-tinged song in the program.
“We’re trying to explore some traditions that are accessible, but with a real holiday feeling. Just not all familiar. We are doing, ‘I Wonder As I Wander,” and Kelly is doing an arrangement of ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain.’ It’s sort of a quilt that came together from a lot of different impulses.”