As Christmas approaches, few things bring the “Spirit of the Season” quite like joyful music and the excitement of a child. Both those elements were found in abundance the evening of December 17th for the Ensign Symphony & Chorus’ Christmas concert, Joy to the World. There was an electric sense of anticipation in the air as we took the stage before a full house at the beautiful Benaroya Hall for this special evening that was to feature our incredibly talented Ensign Youth and Children’s Choirs.
In the weeks preceding the concert, chorus and symphony members had been hard at work preparing and practicing. Under the direction and expert training of Ensign’s new conductor, Steven Danielson, the chorus has seen tremendous growth. This truly magical evening was a culmination of these efforts and the work and service of so many behind the scenes.
The first half of the concert was filled with a delightful variety of Christmas music; ranging from familiar songs such as Mack Wilberg’s lively arrangement of Jingle Bells to the reverent and haunting O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis De Victoria. Also included was a beautiful piece by Rob Gardner titled The Manger of Bethlehem. This song featured a special soloist from our Ensign Children’s Choir, eleven year old Ammon Alldrege. Ammon’s impressive and pure voice touched the entire hall. The first half finished with a rousing orchestra number, Bugler’s Holiday by Leroy Anderson under the direction of our accomplished and talented Symphony conductor, Chase Chang.
Following the intermission, the audience got to hear the sweet voices of the Ensign Youth and Children’s choirs. The first number was Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowry. It featured several gifted soloists and the rest of the Ensign Youth Choir. Following that impressive performance, the Ensign Children’s choir joined with us on stage under the direction and infectious enthusiasm of Ensign’s Youth and Children’s conductor, Sharla Dance. All three choirs sang Mack Wilberg’s arrangements of I Saw Three Ships and How Far Is It to Bethlehem? Followed by a special number sung by the Children’s choir, Baby, What You Goin’ Be? arranged by Natalie Sleeth. The pure voices of these incredible youth and children were rewarded with an animated response from our incredible audience. We look forward to more opportunities in perform with these choirs!
Next was one of the highlights of the entire concert. Ensign was thrilled to debut the world premiere performance of a new arrangement of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Ensign’s own Stephen Weatherford. It was a masterful composition weaving together the beauty of the music and narration of the poignant circumstances that originally brought this beloved song to life by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Stephen Weatherford has been a member of the Ensign Chorus and our accompanist from the beginning. He spent an entire year and over 150 hours of work and research on this masterpiece. The narration, performed powerfully by former Ensign President Richard Manwaring, tells of the tragic death of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife, the darkness of the American Civil War, and his son’s injury from the war. These circumstances left Longfellow feeling despair, yet he never lost his faith and was inspired to write the famous verses. In the final verse he writes, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.” Stephen’s moving arrangement and narration brought the audience to their feet and left few dry eyes in the entire hall. It was a powerful reminder of the true message of hope and light that we celebrate in the season.
It was a truly inspiring evening of music and celebration, and one that I am sure filled all present with the Christmas spirit. We invite you to join us March 1st for our upcoming concert The Is Sunshine In My Soul Today.