Monday, December 8, 2014

Joyful Noise

"That's Christmas spelled C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S.  X mas take on a whole different meaning when it's Christmas."

This quote is part of a program featuring the gospel choir from Salem Baptist Church with their program "A Joyful Noise: A Gospel Christmas” last Sunday at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha. This program featured the Grammy-nominated Salem Baptist Church choir located in Omaha with their singers, band, dancers, children and special guests Lecresia Campbell, Jonathan McReynolds, Daniel Martinez, Eric Jordan and Elaine Stoner. This collaborative program combined Omaha Performing Arts with Omaha's Salem Baptist Church members and musical friends.

The choir along with the band was the foundation of this program which was essentially a variety gospel program. The band played various accompaniments while also playing an independent number of "Carol of the Bells' reminiscent of Mannheim Steamroller with "My Favorite Things" blended into this melody. A large screen provided background graphics for the instrumental group as well as the entire program.

The Salem Gospel Choir was amazing.   They obviously knew the music which varied between unison and three-part SAB singing.  Every member of the choir had their eyes on the conductor, not holding their music but knowing their music, barely blinking as every chorus member attentively watched for their cues and cut-offs while all being dressed beautifully in black.

Each solo performer was very different representing their own interpretation and style of gospel music.

Daniel Martinez played an amazing rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on his acoustical guitar.   This was an invigorating and delightful arrangement.  This international Flamenco guitarist is brilliant in his playing.  He has recorded five solo albums.

Also performing was Jonathan McReynolds singing and playing a reflective song stating what many today believe with words such as "I want to be saved and be cool too."  He sings with a lyrical voice relating to everyday life.   He recently signed with Tehillah Music Group/Light Records label.    

An unusual but meaningful selection was "Christmas Makes Me Cry" sung by Elaine Stoner and Eric Jordan. Christmas is not the same for everyone and this piece was wonderful for showing different perspectives.

Lecresia Campbell sang one song, "Holy, Thou Art Holy" which unquestionably demonstrated why she is considered as one of the best gospel singers in the country.

One of the most outstanding parts of this program was the integration of the children in the show with the dancing and singing while dressed in their holiday best.   It was obvious the these young church members had practiced many hours to dance and sing their songs with such enthusiasm.   The leadership is truly outstanding in allowing each child to be part of this exciting event while being close for the support and redirection if needed.

The dancers were usually from the pre-school aged through teenagers all of which were beautifully and tastefully costumed.  What is seldom seen is that each dancer did not have to fit a particular stereotype. With their gorgeous and flowing costumes, you could tell that each dancer felt their steps as a reflection of their relationship with the music. Obviously much time was taken to work with the youth in this professional quality show with outstanding choreography, music and stagemanship.

The entire cast of this program exemplified stagemanship, respect, beauty, devotion, and professionalism in their performance with minimizing movement between acts and truly finding the beauty for each individual performer.

WOWT sponsored this program this year and along with other sponsors sees this as the beginning of an annual event which is entertaining, respectful, uplifting and puts Christ back in Christmas.

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