The ancient music performed by The Goliards is uniquely suited to Christmas. Perhaps that's why the group's director, John Hillenbrand, is the happy recipient of an early present.
"We have a wealth of sopranos," he says. "That's a situation I've not been fortunate to find myself in since I've been in Savannah. We are going to exploit it to do some very different pieces for our upcoming concert."
Christmas With The Goliards will cover a period of 350 years, from about 1150 to 1500.
The program will feature sopranos Ashley Adams, Melissa Flummerfelt, Mary Catherine Mousourakis and Cuffy Sullivan.
"We are including more choral music than has been our custom in the past," Hillenbrand says.
One of the program's four sets will feature a Marian motet cycle from the late 13th century that comes from the Montpellier Codex. Another set will include three canonic works from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat that date from the 14th century.
With an unusual vocal drone accompaniment, The Goliards also will present a New Year's conductus from the abbey of St.-Martial-de-Limoges, a lauda from the Cortona Laudario, an anthem by St. Hildegard of Bingen, two Byzantine liturgical Christmas chants and a conductus by PÃ©rotin from The Great Book of Organum of the NÃ´tre Dame School.
Other numbers will include an Anglo-Norman lay dedicated to the Virgin, two songs by the great trouvÃ¨re Gace BrulÃ©, an Anglo-Norman carole and a Hungarian love song that is thought to date to the 15th century.
In addition to vocalists, the group features instrumentalists who play the harp, hurdy gurdy, positive organ and medieval fiddle. The program will conclude with a performance of the Wexford Carol, an ancient Irish hymn.
A motet is set to Gregorian chant with more laid on top.
"If not done well, it sounds like complete cacophany," Hillenbrand says.
Even though this is a Christmas concert, only a few of the numbers are actually about Jesus Christ.
"These are mostly Marian things," Hillenbrand says. "We're a medieval group and do medieval music, and that's what they did.
"We're starting the program with a New Year's anthem that comes from a monastery," he says. "During the Middle Ages, it was a beacon of spirituality and its legacy in music is immense."
The music covers a large period of time.
"This program is really themeless," he says. "We're not really stressing any particular era, so it's a mixed bag."
Some of the more unusual pieces you're unlikely to hear in Savannah anywhere else other than a Goliards' concert.
"We're doing a dance written by a guy who was one of the better composers of the 15th century," Hillenbrand says.
"His name was Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro, also known as William the Jew. He converted to Christianity in the 1460s and Giovanni Ambrosio is the name he took after conversion."
Although ancient, the Wexford Carol is still popular today.
"We're singing it in modern English," Hillenbrand says.
"Everyone in the group is involved in it," he says. "We've never had such a strong vocal contingent, so we're using it to the utmost degree we can."