Singers unite for community cantata

Community choir members sing a number from the cantata “A Blest Messiah Born.” (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Bell choir members Lori Leming, Bobby Ann Willms, Lisa Davies and Linda Link perform before the community choir at the Christmas cantata held Dec. 17 at the Federated Church. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Following some years of not having a community Christmas choir program, the long-standing Waterville tradition was brought back this year. A community choir prepared the Christmas cantata “A Blest Messiah Born” and performed it at the Federated Church on Dec. 17.

The cantata, directed by Phyllis Browning, included performances by the Federated Church handbell choir and a children’s choir, directed by Suzanne Robinson. Dee Shriner accompanied at the piano.

The evening performance was well attended.

Browning has been in Waterville long enough to remember when both Christmas and Easter cantatas were an annual tradition. She enjoyed bringing at least the Christmas cantata back this year.

She said the choir members had a lot of fun getting together each week to practice for this year’s performance.

“It’s fun to do a community thing,” Browning said.

The cantata featured seven of the most beautiful and stirring Christmas carols. Two of these were performed with the help of the children’s choir, which entered dressed as barnyard animals for their rendition of “The Friendly Beasts.”

The children’s choir opens the song “The Friendly Beasts” during the cantata “A Blest Messiah Born.” Members include Skyrah Myrbo, Savannah Tongate, Mya DeFord, Timothy Tonseth, Lauren Shiflett and Nathan Clune. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

The handbell choir performed before and after the community choir, and the congregation itself had the opportunity to sing “Silent Night” before the benediction.

Lori Leming was one of half a dozen women who performed in the handbell choir — something she said has been on her “bucket list” for quite a while now.

Leming grew up in Waterville and recently moved back to town from Seattle. She said that every year during the holidays she would seek out the handbell choirs that performed in her area. At the end of the performances, the members would usually invite people in the audience to ring the handbells. She always took them up on that.

When handbell choir director Jill Thompson asked her if she wanted to join the choir, she jumped at the chance.

Thompson said the handbell choir performs at the church several times a year. She color-codes the music, so that even those who do not know how to read music are able to participate.

Cathy Clark, who attended the performance, expressed appreciation for the handbell choir because it added something different.

“All the music was wonderful and I loved seeing the kids there,” she added.