Encouraging a more active role in Christmas

Saturday, December 4, 2004

For those who feel like their holiday activities lately are limited to shopping, it might be a good idea to head to Jackson today where something old and something new in holiday festivities are being held.

At 1:30 p.m. the city's annual Christmas parade gets underway on High Street by Jackson Frozen Foods Lockers at 400 S. High St., continues to Main Street and ends on Farmington Road.

This year's parade has a "candyland Christmas" theme and will feature about 80 entries. While most of the parade consists of floats created by local businesses and organizations, the Oak Ridge, Jackson and Meadow Heights high school marching bands will also participate and members of the Jackson Heritage Association will be in the parade wearing period costumes.

Jackson police chief James Humphreys is the parade marshal.

Last year, more than 2,500 people attended the parade, which is put on by the Jackson Jaycees. The Jaycees president and parade chairwoman Beth Pry expects a similar turnout this year.

"It's amazing. Everyone seems to known about it and we have several thousand turn out," Pry said.

Sing along

While the "Sing-Along Messiah" is unlikely to have attendance levels quite so large, the event's sponsor, the Jackson Area Arts Council, is hoping for enough interest to make it an annual event.

The sing-along, which takes place at 4 p.m. at New McKendree United Methodist Church at 225 High St., is led by an approximately 30-member chorus that will perform four choruses from George Frederic Handel's "Messiah," including the "Hallelujah Chorus." Audience participation is encouraged.

"It gives people a chance to be a part of and participate in something they might not otherwise get the opportunity to be a part of," said Dr. John Egbert, who is the choir's conductor.

Although not composed specifically for Christmas, "Messiah," or at least parts of it, is routinely performed by choirs around the holidays. Last year, Southeast Missouri State University's choral union and university choir performed it for its fall semester concert.

Unlike the choral union and university choir, the "Sing-Along Messiah" choir did not have to spend weeks rehearsing. They just spent one day, and it was open to everyone who wanted to participate.

"You don't have to be a professional musician to be part of it or rehearse for weeks on end," said arts council volunteer Ann Swanson. "It's an opportunity for people already familiar with Handel's 'Messiah' to perform it in a nonstressful environment, and it's an opportunity for people who enjoy Handel's music to listen to it. It's meant to be inspiring and enjoyable and a musical way to start out the season."

There are two professional musicians leading the chorus.

Christy Shinn, Jackson High School's choral director, will play the piano, and Egbert, a music instructor at Southeast and former university choir director, will conduct.

Egbert said he is not worried about the lack of rehearsal time because most of the choral members have experience performing in other choirs and are familiar with "Messiah."

"It's one of those works anyone who has sang in a choir has performed at least parts of," Egbert said.

And he said it is work that people not only enjoy listening to, but also enjoy performing.

"We [choral union and university choir] performed 'Messiah' last fall, and we had about 160 singers and academic auditorium was sold out," Egbert said. "Every time we performed 'Messiah' it was the same thing. Singers just came out of the woodwork and audiences came from all over."

kalfisi@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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