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Christ United Methodist’s ‘Keyboards at Christmas’ a delightful gift of music

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On Sun., Dec. 15, 2013, Christ United Methodist Church gave a very special gift of music to the Bryan-College Station community. “Keyboards at Christmas” featured 90 minutes of nonstop talent, delight, and beauty that offered peace and reflection to at least 1,000 people filling the pews of South College Station's largest area church.

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The stars of the program were “four (grand) pianos and an organ,” and the talented Christ United Methodist Church members of all ages who sat in front of them. Led by James Faith, Executive Director of Program Ministries, and Grady Chism, director of Music & Worship Ministries, the evening also included a talented bell choir who added to the evening’s music offerings.

Prelude music by Greg Tivis in the church narthex welcomed the crowd who arrived early to enjoy hospitality and fellowship. Although many of the attendees were part of the church’s vast membership, a substantial number of community visitors came to see, hear, and break through the doldrums of rushing around on deadlines to simply sit, relax, and receive a message of music that inspired peace and comfort.

Rev. Jerry House, Jr., Senior Pastor of Christ United Methodist, welcomed the group and blessed the event with a prayer. The adult concert pianists arrived on stage, including Condy Carter, Grady Chism, Jaime Crouse, James Faith, Karlene Hendershot, Cindy Hessong, Carol Holtzapple, and Katie Stohler.

The Canticle Bells group included Katheryn Alexander, Allyson Butler, Jennifer Day, Mark Gabriel, Terri Hunt, Katherine Jahnke, Amanda Jons, Paul Lambert, Teresa McGinnis, LeeAnn Nichols, Larry Ringer, Polli Satterwhite, and Karen Snowden.

The opening piano arrangements of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo,” “Fantasy on Joy to the World,” and “Deck the Halls Fantasy,” which included the Canticle Bells set the tone for a reverent celebration of beloved carols. Then, talented organist James Faith performed a Diane Bish arrangement of “Sing We Now of Christmas,” and with the organ appropriately placed on the stage, the audience could see the complex movements and dynamic talent requisite to bring the song to life.

Faith was joined by Condy Carter on “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” as the artists moved smoothly on and off the stage with no break, which added to the professional performance and atmosphere, reminiscent of the fare offered in cities much larger than College Station.

Popular area pianist Greg Tivis, whose talents range from jazz piano to arrangements for rock, R&B and more, shared his own arrangement of “We Three Kings” and “What Child is This” followed by Grady Chism, Jaime Crouse, James Faith, and Carol Holtzapple on “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The Canticle Bells on Dobrinski’s arrangement of “Coventry Carol” made a lovely transition to the halfway point in the evening.

Grady Chism motioned for the audience to stand and sing along, as the eight adult pianists returned to perform Chism’s piano arrangement of “Joy to the World.” The pianists also shared “What Child Is This?” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”

Images of childhood days enjoying “The Nutrcracker” were initiated by the Canticle Bells’ version of “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” and then eight young pianists found their way to the stage. Christopher Novosad and Bradley White, two young teen boys dressed in white t-shirts and black pants, walked with a 50s style to their places at the pianos.

Then in white turtlenecks and a mixture of red and green poodle skirts, Brooke DiGiacomo, Sydney Knoop, Sasha Koustav, Sophia North and Sarah Kate Stolz joined them for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” both arrangements by Keveren. The audience members could not sit still as they punctuated their enjoyment of the music by tapping their feet, performing a little air piano in their seats, and so many adults looked at one another and smiled while slightly bobbing their heads in time with the tunes, as the young people’s gifts of song were so warmly received and appreciated.

The audience gave rousing applause to Greg Tivis after he performed another of his own arrangements on “Winter Wonderland,” which can only be described as exceptional. The eight adult pianists brought home the special feeling of reverence at Christmas with “Pastoral Symphony,” “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which concluded the 19-song formal program for the evening.

Following Rev. House’s lovely benediction, he prompted the pianists with “don’t you all usually do one more song? Maybe Jingle Bells?” With that, the adult pianists broke free with a fun and flowing motion of hands atop the keyboards and began a fun series of rotations of places as the four pairs of pianists changed places. Laughter from the audience made the encore even more enjoyable for the artists. What a delightful way to end the evening, which flew by as solid entertainment.

You can enjoy Sunday’s concert in days to come, when it is eventually uploaded on the church’s web site. Click here to launch their media player. Copies may also be available for orders.

The Bryan-College Station community is indeed fortunate to have enjoyed these church members and their gifts of music. Mark your calendars for this time next year, if you were not in attendance last evening, for an unforgettable gift of musical talents that shared holiday wishes of peace, love, and reverence, mixed in with some fun and fellowship, a free gift to the public from the music ministries of Christ United Methodist Church.

(Note: See below for more of Dawn Lee's stories on Television, Classic Rock, Pop Culture, Live Music in Houston and Aggieland, Texas Aggie sports, national topics in Higher Education, Charity & Volunteerism and Travel. On Twitter at @dawnleewake and on Facebook.)

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