Not All Gifts Fit Under The Christmas Tree

“An American Family Christmas,” which will be presented Dec. 18-20 by the Peoria Area Civic Chorale, is one of those gifts. The concert series will be performed at the Five Points Performing Arts Center in Washington.

Dr. Joseph Henry, artistic director and conductor, called “An American Family Christmas” a “musical escape” from a season that can be “hectic, a little chaotic, and full of busy-ness.”

He said the concerts are designed to help families “slow down, take a deep breath, and share together as a family moments of joy, beauty and laughter as the Peoria Area Civic Chorale unwraps and shares God’s gift of beautiful music.”

The first half of that gift begins with the resounding exaltation, “Glory to God in the Highest,” from John Rutter’s “Gloria” and sets a jubilant mood that focuses on the real meaning of the Christmas season. The musical journey through the Nativity story continues by immersing listeners into a night of stillness (“Night of Silence”/”Silent Night”) that bore the cry of an infant King.

What follows is the proclamation of the angels, who announce the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside. In response, the Civic Chorale joins the celebration by singing, “Jesus is born, alleluia!”

Audiences will hear the final two movements of Rutter’s “Gloria” as the first half of the program closes. The second movement features the ethereal sounds of an organ, a brass choir, treble solos and the voices of the Civic Chorale, while the third movement includes an expansive “Amen.”

“This setting of the ‘Gloria,’ the second section of the Mass Ordinary, was a milestone in John Rutter’s career,” according to Dr. Henry. He added that since it premiered in 1974, the “Gloria” has become a perennial favorite of many choirs and audiences around the world due to its “freshness, drama and sheer beauty.”

The second half of the program invites listeners to explore the many sights and sounds of Christmas from a more secular perspective. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Home for the Holidays,” “A Marshmallow World” and songs about Santa Clause are favorites for all family members regardless of age, Dr. Henry said.

“Before we say goodbye and wish everyone a Merry Christmas, the Civic Chorale brings the audience full circle, returning to the ‘glory’ of the Christmas season with a beautiful setting of ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ and an inspirational rendition of the traditional carol, ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful,’” he said.