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.
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