By James Beaty
In addition to the traditional orchestra and chorus, this year’s Community Christmas Concert will include something new in its program — a multimedia presentation.
The Community Christmas Concert is set to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at S. Arch Thompson Auditorium.
Once again this year, admission is free, with the chorus and orchestra made up of volunteer singers and musicians. They come not only from McAlester, but from around the state and will include a couple of guest performers from Arkansas.
Rodney Briggs, who is conducting the orchestra, the chorus and a special handbell group chorus, believes those attending the event will like what the musicians and singers have to offer.
“It’s all brand new arrangements this year,” Briggs said. The concert will include both secular and sacred music.
“On top of everything else, we’re doing a three-screen multimedia show, with a nine by 40 foot screen,” Briggs said. Look for Christmas-related images on the screen while the musicians and singers are performing.
Something special is planned for the big screen during “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” a song which Briggs noted became highly popular during World War II.
“During the song, the screen will feature local military people in the field today,” Briggs said. One who’s viewed the presentation said it could be a “two-hanky event” for those who are easily touched.
“This year the orchestra will play two instrumental pieces,” Briggs said. “Christmas Day Overture” is an aural collage of traditional carols, while “Christmas Africana” will feature African rhythms.
Special performances include “A Celtic Silent Night,” featuring a violin solo by Machelle Ward, and accompaniment by a handbell group. Those playing the handbells include some members of the chorus, as well as the Joyful Ringers from the First Baptist Church.
Other songs range from “Jingle Bells” for the children to “Glory, Glory,” which Briggs said has a heavy gospel influence, with lots other numbers included as well.
The Community Chorus began rehearsals in September.
“We have about 50 singers this year, consisting of local volunteers who purchased their own music and worked hard,” Briggs said.
“The orchestra this year is made of more local people,” he said, and also includes music teachers from other parts of the state.
Orchestra members will include Jerry and Gretta Lane, who are coming to McAlester from Arkansas to perform in the concert. Jerry Lane grew up performing with band at McAlester Public Schools, Briggs said.
The annual Community Christmas Concert is made possible through donations from the McAlester Area Arts and Humanities Council, the Bass Foundation, the First National Bank and Trust, and individual donors, said Briggs.
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