Christmas concert is coming
November 28, 2012
By Sarah Gerdes
For Snoqualmie Valley residents, the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is the kick-off for holiday activities and celebrations in the Valley.
Another tradition in the Valley is attending the annual Community Nativity Christmas Concert, a nondenominational, interfaith affair that involves internationally celebrated recording artists alongside local student performers.
This year, the 12th annual event is at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 at the North Bend building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Christmas is a time for family, community and friends to gather together, and we are honored to be able to share in a little bit of this by hosting and providing the venue for such a wonderful event,” said Lind Stapley, a presiding counselor in the Bellevue South Stake that oversees the LDS congregations for the Snoqualmie Valley. “It’s a time and a place for us to come together, feel the love for each other and the love of the Lord.”
A community celebration
The Christmas Concert features students from the Mount Si Concert and Chamber Choir, directed by choir director Ryan Harris, along with internationally known recording artists and local churches.
Harley Brumbaugh, the choral director for Voices of the Valley, said the United Methodist Church choir has been participating in the event since the beginning.
“The idea was to share the Lord in different dimensions,” Brumbaugh said. “To me, all music has the potential to be sacred, and it doesn’t all have to be straight-faced and serious. It can be toe-tapping and finger-snapping because music has the ability to reach people in different dimensions.”
Ed Evans, the coordinator from the LDS North Bend congregation, fondly recalls the concert several years back when Brumbaugh turned from his choir and engaged the audience.
“It was amazing,” Evans gushed. “After a moment’s surprise, we jumped in and started singing as Harley directed the attendees.”
Brumbaugh laughs at the memory, but agrees that his approach is as unconventional as his 50-year career as a professional trumpeter in big bands.
“Music is more than just a performance,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s a two-way thing. If you engage the audience, get them emotionally engaged in the audience, it’s shared.”
Before leading the United Methodist Choir, Brumbaugh used his talents to establish the music program at then-Bellevue Community College. He was always a minister of music at a church, where he integrated the latest and greatest musical methods and trends.
“I wanted to carry that heritage through the singing — different microphone techniques, sometimes with no vibrato, sometimes a lot of close harmony,” he said. “It gives the music a contemporary sound that’s very different from a traditional choir.”
A jazzy Christmas
Augmenting the approach is a performance by the Evergreen Community College Jazz Choir. Choral Director Kelley Eisenhour is also performing a solo.
“We are fortunate to have a talent like Kelly perform for the community,” Evans said.
Eisenhour has several albums to her credit, and a long career singing with the Boston Pops, on the main stages in Las Vegas and alongside Gladys Knight and the Pips.
Eisenhour enjoyed her time traveling the world, but relishes the opportunity to teach students and give benefit performances during the holidays.
“I like to do things for the community and be active,” she said. “I think Christmastime is a time to be around neighbors, and mingling and smiling and enjoying each other.”
It’s a good thing, because after completing her solo with her choir, she joins up with her professional group, Groove for Thought, to perform at Boxley’s in North Bend.
An event for all ages
Three LDS congregations will combine to perform a trio of songs; Elise Vikari, the choral director, will solo as well. The members of the three congregations have worked hard to make the atmosphere and the food memorable.
“The Mount Si Ward handled the marketing and publicity, the Snoqualmie Ward provided the decorations for the main hall, the Christmas trees, lights and pictures, and the North Bend Ward is making the best desserts,” Stapley said. “Members of all ages have assisted in the effort.”
The same holds true for the choral groups. In the Voices of the Valley, the youngest performer is an 18-year old male; the oldest is Gloria McNeely, 93.
“Here again, music bridges age gaps and cultural gaps,” Brumbaugh said. “Where else are you going to have a 93-year-old sitting a foot away from someone 18, and both are enjoying it?
“That’s mankind as it should be.”
If you go
Community Nativity Christmas Concert
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
527 S.W. Mount Si Blvd., North Bend
6 p.m. — nativity displays in the cultural hall
7 p.m. — concert starts
Attendance is free, although a donation of a can of food per family us suggested. All food donations will be given to the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank.
Sarah Gerdes is a freelance writer.