Market Street Singers artistic director Chris Vincent began working on the concert with the choir in September.
Market Street Singers artistic director Chris Vincent began working on the concert with the choir in September.

The Market Street Singers is a large choral ensemble and tour-de-force, always looking for a larger venue in which to perform.

Artistic director Chris Vincent predicts tight, but merry quarters during this year’s free holiday concerts at Ballard First Lutheran Church, 2006 NW 65th St. “Your Holiday Song” will have a first performance 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and then at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.

“It’s quite crowded when we do this, but we make it work,” Vincent said.

This will be the sixth year the Market Street Singers have performed a holiday special, and last year they revisited a lot of music from past concerts while adding in newer songs celebrating the season. Last year a piece was arranged for them called “Like the Winter is Dark,” which addresses multiple holidays in the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and pagan faiths, Vincent said. The choir balances secular and nonsecular music during their holiday performances.

“Often we will also do what I would call old holiday standards that have been revamped and are kind of edgy,” Vincent said.

The Market Street Singers formed in 2004, after Vincent was tasked with putting together a choir group for the Art Fiske Festival put on by the Arts Ballard organization.

“Before I knew it, I had 35 people signed up, and we had six rehearsals,” Vincent said of the Arts Ballard Festival Choir. “It came together very well. When it was all done, I spoke to them. Back in those days, it was felt if there was a choir in Ballard, it was a heritage choir.”

Acknowledging Ballard was more than just a neighborhood rooted in Scandinavian heritage, the Market Street Singers formed as a community choir open to all types of music.

Their first rehearsal had 17 singers, Vincent said, and 15 years later the Market Street Singers have 86 people on the roster.

Anyone can join the Market Street Singers, regardless of experience or talent.

“We are deliberately non-audition. It’s something they [the choir] decided and not something I decided as their director,” Vincent said.

Anyone who joined up to a month ago will be able to perform during the “Your Holiday Song” concerts.

“Our rehearsals are geared toward learning, so we take an educational approach,” Vincent said.

The artistic director doesn’t hesitate to stop a song and give feedback about what’s wrong during rehearsals and then directing how to improve.

“We definitely look to Chris, as our artistic director, to ensure the musicality and the quality of the music and also the challenge, the singing challenges that he presents to us,” said Bobann Fogard, president of the Market Street Singers board. “That is definitely an important purview of his role.”

Fogard joined the Market Street Singers a decade ago, following a friend from another choral group.

“It’s grown. The numbers of singers have got bigger and bigger,” she said. “The musicality of the group has increased; it’s gotten much better. We’ve been singing more difficult pieces, and doing it successfully.”

Fogard said she is excited about the variety of music being performed during this year’s holiday concerts.

“There’s one song we’re singing that’s just really fun, and it’s called ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater,’” she said. “It’s just a fun song to sing and a funny sort of sentiment on Christmas.”

Fogard said Vincent, Mitchell Fund, board vice president and assistant artistic director, and other members post study recordings online, so people can sing along by section, which is helpful for newcomers or people who can't read music well.

The Market Street Singers continue to look for larger venues in which to perform, and that has taken the choral group outside Ballard, which has been contentious, Vincent said. More than half of the singers live in Loyal Heights, Ballard and Crown Hill, he said, so it’s important to maintain a presence in the neighborhood for as long as they can.

As a Ballard resident, Fogard said she likes having the Market Street Singers in the neighborhood and all of the friendships she’s made.

“I have two or three close friends who are also in the chorus now,” she said. “A lot of people have also gained friendships out of it as well.”

The Market Street Singers is a nonprofit organization that never charges for its performances.

“What’s interesting is we put a donations basket out on the front table, and we always get an enormous contribution from the audience,” Vincent said.

Following the weekend performances, Market Street Singers will share their holiday concert with youth offenders at the Echo Glen Children’s Center, Vincent said, which he considers to be one of the most meaningful performances of the year.