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(Posted 4:30 p.m., Dec. 2)
Christmas Choirfest raises $3,600 for local food banks
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Members of the Queenswood United Church choir perform during the 30th annual Orléans Christmas Choirfest on Sunday, Fred Sherwin/Photo

Each year for the past 30 years, church choirs from across the east end have gathered together to celebrate the Christmas season through song and scripture while raising thousands of dollars for the less fortunate in our community.

This year, being the 30th anniversary, was no exception as four youth ensembles and five adult choirs took part in the annual Orléans Christmas Choirfest at the Community Pentecostal Church on Sunday, raising $3,800 for the Orleans-Cumberland Food Bank and the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard in the process.

All four youth choirs joined as one to kick off the concert by singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. The Cross Town Youth Chorus, the Divine Infant Children’s Choir and the Orleans United Junior Choir all briefly departed the stage, leaving the Sonshine Singers to perform “Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy” led by Cathy, Trinette, Victoria and Christina Goddard.

The Sonshine Singers are a wonderful amalgam of able-bodied and mental and physically challenged children and young adults who all share a love for music and provide one of the highlights of the Choirfest year after year.

After a reading of Isaiah 40 verses 1-11, prophesying the birth of Jesus, the Cross Town Youth Chorus senior members took to the main stage to sing “Christmas Jig” before being joined by the junior members for “Les Anges Chantent”.

They were followed on stage by the Divine Infant Children’s Choir which sang “How Many Kings” and the Orleans United Junior Choir which chose to perform “Rise Up, You Shepherds”.

One of the neat elements of the Christmas Choirfest is the opportunity it provides for the audience to become part of the performance by joining together to sing traditional carols between each choir starting with “O Come All Ye Faithful”.

The first adult choir to perform on Sunday was the Orleans United Church choir which chose “O Magnum Mysterium” and “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” for their two numbers. “O Magnum Mysterium” is a baroque composition written in the 16th century, while “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is a traditional African-American spiritual song.

While the Orleans United Church Choir made way on stage for the Cumberland Community Singers, the audience rose as one to sing “What Child is This”, which was then followed by a reading of Luke 2, verses 8-12 in which a host of angels announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds guarding their flocks.

The reading was the perfect intro to the Cumberland Community Singers who sang “Merry Christmas Madrigal”, arranged with additional lyrics by Mary Ryan, followed by the old German carol “Good Christmas All, Rejoice”.

Next up on stage was the choir from St. Helen’s Anglican Church in Queenswood Heights who sang “Born in the Fullness of Time” along with the traditional old English composition, “Sussex Carol”.

As the audience rose once again to sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” a freewill collection was taken during which $3,340 was collected for the two community food banks.

The main program was soon resumed with the Queenswood United Church choir’s performance of “Silent Night, Silent World” with Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse singing lead, followed by “Good Will to All” featuring the voices of Don Besig and Nancy Price.

The last chorus to take the stage was the Divine Infant Roman Catholic Church choir, which sang an adapted version of the African Folk Song “African Sanctus”, followed by a mash up of “O Come All Ye Faithfull” and “You Raise Me Up” arranged by choir director Lisa-Marie Hollis.

After their solo performance, the Divine Infant choir was joined on stage by the rest of the choruses to sing “O Night Divine” and “Soon and Very Soon” which has become a Christmas Choirfest staple.

The event was then brought to a close with the mass choirs singing “Peace, Peace” accompanied by harpist Joanne Griffin and members of the Community Pentecostal and Gloucester Community Concert bands. They were led by the Choirfest’s founder and principal organizer Lynne Stacey who directed the mass choir for the very first time.

The $3,340 in donations collected during the event brings the total amount raised over the past 30 years to more than $100,000 which is a tribute to Stacey and her dedicated organizing committee.

The Choirfest was taped by Rogers, which will be broadcasting the event over the coming days and weeks. Check your local listings for the exact date and time.

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


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