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It’s beginning to look and sound a lot like Christmas and nothing characterizes that statement more than the concert I attended last Sunday night. An eighty-five voice choir and a thirty-five piece orchestra under the direction of Scott Atchison presented The Many Moods of Christmas concert in the beautiful sanctuary of the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.Many Moods 1

The Many Moods of Christmas is based on the 1963 program of eighteen Christmas carols conducted by Robert Shaw, grouped into four suites. The carols were arranged for chorus and orchestra by famed Broadway orchestrator Robert Russel Bennett. It was performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Robert Shaw Chorale. That recording more than 50 years ago is still a very popular favorite- and nobody does it better than the choir and orchestra at this church in Atlanta.

 

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The concert begins with selections from Handel’s Messiah, an oratorio composed in 1741. It has become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music. The program continues with one of John Rutter’s most well-known works, Gloria in excelsis Deo. The splendid evening of music concludes with a medley of old favorite Christmas carols.

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Plan to join me and hundreds of others next year when the tradition continues. If you are already in the Christmas spirit, this concert will cause you to soar to greater heights. If you are in the doldrums during December, the beauty of the music and the setting will lift your spirits. I promise.

You will “experience the wonder and joy of the Advent season” just like the publicity suggests.

After the concert, I started thinking about the many moods of Christmas. The secular and the sacred traditions. The cultural practices and family rituals. The music that ranges from the ridiculous (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas) to the sublime (Silent Night, O Holy Night). The parties and food. The wrapping and exchanging of gifts. The trips to the mall to have a picture sitting on Santa’s lap. Travels to be with family.Many Moods 5

Christmas is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year. The hap-happiest season of all.”

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All of this merry making and joy began as a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. The festivities have expanded to include many things that have no direct connection to that event long ago in the austere environment of a cow stall in Bethlehem. Nevertheless, that event changed the world. Regardless of how we celebrate the occasion today it is a reminder of the announcement of the angels to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy. For unto you is born this day… a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” And we sing robustly “Joy to the world, the Lord is Come.”

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Merry Christmas!

Jamie Jenkins

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I am not a musician and I have no formal musical training but I do enjoy and value a variety of music. Martin Luther and I agree, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

A few years ago USA Today included Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in a list of “10 great places to be enthralled by heavenly music.” The people that filled the church sanctuary last Sunday night would agree with that claim. The 75 voice Chancel Choir accompanied by a 35 piece orchestra and 27 members of the Georgia Boy Choir offered the 25th Anniversary presentation of The Many Moods of Christmas, a spectacular program of Christmas music.

Tonight my wife and I plan to join friends to “celebrate the season through song” at a Coffee House Concert. I am looking forward to enjoying the coffee and desserts along with friends and members of the community where I live.

Then tomorrow night my wife and I will attend “Jesus and Aretha: The King and Queen of Soul” at Inman Park United Methodist Church. Publicity for this event cautions that we should not “expect the usual Christmas pageant. It’s more meaningful that Hallmark-y, more rock-and-roll than church-y, and lots of fun!” I can hardly wait.

Then on Saturday night we plan to attend the Georgia Boy Choir concert featuring all five levels of boys, a full orchestra, and lots of audience participation including Atlanta’s largest “Twelve Days of Christmas Sing-along.” And next Monday we hope to be present at the Red Clay Theater for Joe Gransden’s Big Band Holiday Show with special guest, Francine Reed.

These events complement what I hear everywhere during this season of the year and affirms Edgar Winter’s assertion that “music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together.” Music gives wings to the soul and teaches it to fly. And especially Christmas music.

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The sacred songs of the season are especially meaningful but who doesn’t love to hear and sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman. The peppy tunes of Here Comes Santa Claus and Jingle Bells bring a smile to your face and you can’t keep from patting your feet. And you cannot help but become a bit nostalgic when you hear the smooth sounds of White Christmas.

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Friedrich Nietzsche said “without music, life would be a mistake.” I agree but I must admit that when I hear “Rocking around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday” on the radio or in a shopping mall for what seems like the 10,000th time, I cringe and wonder if life is really any better because of that song.

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The legendary musician, Ray Charles, said **Music is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing and I don’t get tired of music.” Neither do I, Ray. And especially Christmas music.

Jamie Jenkins