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(Posted 8:30 a.m., Nov. 29)

Choirfest a musical reminder of true spirit of Christmas
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

The 26th annual Orleans Christmas Choirfest was brought to a close with the iniging of 'O Sing A Song of Bethlehem' and 'Peace, Peace' by the 10 participating choirs who sang en masse. Fred Sherwin/Photo


As society hurtles head long into the 21st century and Christmas becomes increasingly more commercialized, it's often easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season at the expense of the spiritual aspect of the holidays.

On Sunday, over 1200 people packed the Community Pentecostal Church on St. Joseph Blvd. for the 26th annual Orléans Christmas Choirfest featuring performances by 10 local choirs punctuated by readings from the Bible.

For the second year in a row the audience was serenaded by the heavenly tones of harpists Joanne Griffin and Heather Flinn as they took their seats and settled in for the performances to come..

The task of opening the Choirfest is traditional given to the massed children's choirs which this year consisted of the Community Pentecostal Kidz Choir, the Cross Town Youth Chorus, the St. Peter Catholic High School choir and the Sonshine Singers.

After performing "Emmanuel" with soloist Ivana Brainerd, the junior choirs left the stage to the Sonshine Singers who sang a medley of "The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy", "Behold That Star" and "Go Tell It On The Mountain" under the direction of Cathy Goddard..

The Community Pentecostal Kidz Choir kept the show moving with a spirited version of "Christmas Time Is Here", followed by the Community Pentecostal Kidz Choir who sang "Hope Of The Future" with solos by Sophie Letel, Germaine Konji and Clarence Jura.

One of the nicest aspects of the Chirstmas Choirfest are the audience participation numbers that are sandwiched in between the senior choir performances. Since the audience is mostly made up of choir members, the singing of traditional Christmas carols like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "The First Noel" are truely magical.

The Community Pentecostal Kidz Choir was followed on stage by the St. Helen's Anglican Church choir whose powerful rendition of "O Night Divine" provided the first true highlight of the evening.

Following a communal performance of "The First Noel", the Community Pentecostal Church choir delivered their version of "Angels from the Realm of Glory" and 'Hope of the World"..

The Queenswood United Church Choir turned things up a couple of notches with their uplifting performance of "Run to the Manger" followed by the spiritual "Glory to God in the Highest".

After a communal singing of "Il Est Né", the St. Peter High School choir performed the traditional African celebration "Eewaa, Eewaa" followed by the song "Hail Holy Queen" from the movie Sister Act which brought the audience to their feet.

After a freewill offering during which the audience was treated to a vocal performance by local gospel artist Cathy Goddard, the Divine Infant Roman Catholic Church choir took the stage to perform "Born in the Fullness of Time" and "Welcome to the World'. They were followed on stage by the Orleans United Church choir, who sang "If You Would Hear the Angles Sing" and "Keep On Following the Star".

The Cumberland Community Singers were up next and chose to perform the traditional holiday classi "Silent Night" and the less familiar "Jesus Child" which received another loud ovation..

As the audience sang "Joy To The World", all the participating choirs gathered on stage to sing the "Celtic Advent Carol" and "O Sing A Song of Bethlehem ". For the finale, the choirs encircled the entire room to sing "Peace, Peace" which has brought all 26 Choirfests to a close.

During the previous 24 Choirfests, the organizers have managed to raise more than $85,000 for the local Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre food program and the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard.

Sunday night's program was expected to raise over $3,500 for the local foodbanks, which is music to the ears of the Choirfest's founder and spiritual leader Lynne Stacey.

"Every single year it just keeps getting better and better," said Stacey. "We're so blessed to be able to bring all these terrific choirs together and raise money for the local food programs."

This year's Choirfest was taped by Rogers Channel 22 which will broadcast the event at various times during the holiday season.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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