Artists in Action: Choirs set the mood for Christmas worship
Dec 07, 2013 | 6134 views |  0 comments | 82 82 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Performers rehearse Church of the Good Shepherd’s Christmas musical, ‘Sing with the Angels!’ Submitted photo
Performers rehearse Church of the Good Shepherd’s Christmas musical, ‘Sing with the Angels!’ Submitted photo
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Sacred music rules the day in most of the area’s churches this month — in the form of a cantata at Anniston’s First United Methodist, a camerata at First Presbyterian in Jacksonville and a musical at Church of the Good Shepherd in Golden Springs. For many, the real rejoicing during the Advent season begins with these sounds. The public is invited to all three events.

Christmas Camerata today

The First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville does not have a choir. But for the third year, church organist Susie F. Dempsey is making sure there will be special Christmas music. She has organized the Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas led by the Christmas Camerata, a small vocal ensemble and one specially selected for this event.

According to Dempsey, Lessons and Carols features familiar hymns and carols from the Presbyterian Hymnbook as well as anthems arranged by composers for trained soloists, choirs and ensembles.

The organist has invited musical friends and family to form the camerata and lead congregational singing of many of the musical selections. The service is organized with scripture to tell the story of the birth of Christ from the Annunciation through Epiphany.

The camerata will be accompanied by Dempsey at the piano as well as Daniel Dempsey (clarinet), Edna Carr (organist) and Sue Ann Reinisch (Irish harp). The singers are Kenneith Calvert, Rae Cauthen, Erin, Daniel, David and Heidi Dempsey, Wayne Dempsey and Julie Kochan. Also included are Pat Kochan, Dot McKay, Brandon Pisacrita, Landon Shirey, Rodney Shirey, Don Seymour and Cecelia Talley.

Soloists featured at FUMC today

In First United Methodist’s annual program “O Holy Night” tonight at 6 p.m. the cantata is “Appalachian Winter” by Joseph M. Martin. The program, directed by Kathy Murphy, FUMC’s director of music, celebrates the legacy of early American carols and hymnody in the spirit of folk music. Soloists in the program are Jennie Wall, Scott Whitney, Kim Payne, Paige Jones, Ramsey Whitney and Louise Ballenger.

‘Sing with the Angels!’ next Sunday

The Church of the Good Shepherd Presbyterian will present their Christmas Musical "Sing with the Angels!” by native Alabamian Joel Raney Dec. 15 at 11 a.m.

All of the songs in the work serve as an introduction of excitement to see the Christ child.

The angels, depicted as guardian spirits, are the central characters. According to music director Jean Corlett, there are a number of melodious offerings, as well as strong male performances.

“Because of the title's reference to angels, you might think the entire musical was ethereal in nature,” Corlett said. “But the musical contains both strength and lightness in mood. You can almost see and hear the shepherds walking and running on the sandy and rocky roads in the movement ‘Run to Bethlehem!’ while the ladies' lilting voices provide us with certain gentleness in voice as the shepherds approach the clear night.”

Varying styles in this work make it especially enticing. The mood ranges from meditative to rejoicing, from a marching rhythm to a lullaby. The six musical selections, along with narration and occasionally the violin’s voice, brings the audience to a triumphant feeling during the final hymn “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

Raney was born into a musical family and began playing piano at age 3. He studied piano and organ at the University of North Alabama, and later received a master’s degree in piano performance from the Juilliard School. His musical career began in the Southern Baptist church, but also includes work in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago in both theater and jazz performance. He currently makes his living writing and arranging music for radio and TV commercials in his own Chicago-based production company and studio.

The creative force behind the musical is Raney, who was born in Anderson, but the choir itself is a strong force, too, says Corlett.

“Considering our size and variety of music we’ve covered, we are a force to be reckoned with,” she said with a smile.

“Sing with the Angels!” will also be performed at NHC on Dec. 8 and Autumn Cove on Dec. 11.
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