Saturday, December 8, 2007

And They Called Him Jesus

My wife has been preparing for a few months to participate in a big choir that was performing at the College of the Canyons in a program called "And They Called Him Jesus". It was a public event intended to celebrate the Christmas season, and also to demonstrate to some of the doubters in the area that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are indeed Christians.

The program consisted of arrangements of typical Christmas hymns, such as "O Little Town of Bethlehem", "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", and "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" and other Christmas songs that don't start with "o". There was a choir with over 180 volunteers from the two stakes in the Santa Clarita Valley, and a full, professional orchestra. The music was orchestrated and conducted by Alan Williams, a true professional who does film and television scores, and who also happens to be a local bishop.

Tickets ranged in price from $10 to $39. I bought a cheap seat (barely before they were gone!) and sat in the nosebleed session last night. It was a great experience. I loved watching my wife down in the choir. She seemed truly and honestly joyous to be there. She doesn't get the chance to sing in a choir very often since she's both the ward and the stake choir director. For her to have the opportunity to be directed by a professional in such a large choir was something she appreciated.

The performance went very well. The men were completely not together during one section of "The First Noel", and the sopranos came in two measures too early in "Silent Night", but aside from those two noticeable glitches, it was really quite good.

Watching the conductor himself was a treat. He owned that stage. I'd never really seen anybody conduct like he did. Also, I quite enjoyed watching the drummer. Yes, the drummer. He was nothing short of mesmerizing as he kept the tempo for the whole thing using drums that were bigger than my children and sounded extraordinary. I found myself wishing to hear "The Little Drummer Boy" just so he could shine, but it wasn't to be.

I have to be perfectly honest, though, about something. When the "final" song was played, the conductor turned around, bowed, then headed off stage as everybody stood and clapped. He then returned seconds later with a feigned "Oh, if we must" attitude and turned to the choir and orchestra and they performed one last number. To me, the whole production of him walking off stage to be called back on to perform a number that everybody clearly was expecting was nothing short of absurd. I mentioned this to my wife, and she tried to explain that it was just a normal thing. Since I'm somewhat acultural, I'll have to accept that, but it still seemed disingenuous.

During the performance, they did have a few voice-overs and video clips that they played on the big screen above the orchestra. They showed scenes from church videos that depict the birth of the Savior and related events, and they were well-done and flowed with the production fairly well. The transition from one number to another didn't go smoothly in some cases, but it was a fine addition that added good ambiance to the performance.

All told, it was really quite an enjoyable evening. My wife gets to go and perform two more times tonight. She is excited about that, but dreads having to be on her feet for so long ... twice! I'm so happy that she has the opportunity to do this. One of her dreams is to someday be part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but my career being what it is, there's absolutely no way we could live in Utah to make that possible. Nevertheless, hopefully last night's experience gave her some little taste of what that dream-fulfilled might be like. She clearly fits the part.


Carol said...

You should have seen the last two performances - we did a much better job than the opening night. =)
Thanks for your feedback, though - it is nice to hear honesty - not just - "oh, it was so nice....." I too, want to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and singing in the choir at the Performing Arts Center has only renewed my resolve to sing with the "MTC" even more...I too am a choir director for our ward - but it isn't anything I brag about. I went into it not really knowing what I was doing because nobody else wanted to do it - but am learning as I go. I learned a lot from Bishop Williams - he was great. The whole experience was very neat and spiritual and I tear up when I think about it. Although, I won't miss the aching feet and shoulders - I will miss the closeness I felt to everyone that participated. I hope we get to do it again. It was funny how you liked the drums - almost every one that I talk to from the audience mentioned how much they enjoyed the Timpani player =)

Minime said...

I agree, we needed just one more rehearsal with the orchestra, and Friday's performance ended up being that. But on Saturday - especially the last performance - it was absolutely amazing. I had chills through the whole thing, and we just nailed every song! I must admit I felt the same way about the whole "encore" performance, but I guess it is part of the culture. It was smoother on Saturday night though. Thanks for your comments! It was an absolute treat to work with Bishop Williams. He's an amazing musician, and I loved the music he wrote for this concert!

Melissa said...

Yes, Roy, it is normal for the conductor to walk off and then come back for an encore number. If you watch the PBS special of the MTC with Sissel, you'll see her walk off, then come back for an encore of the chorus of the last song. Very normal, not disingenous. Or however you spell that.

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