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Where it’s all about the music

This year’s performances will feature choirs, bands, vocalists, and a 17-piece orchestra, the largest they’ve ever had.
Stacey Musselman and Peter Henderson will get in the holiday spirit this weekend at Koinonia’s annual Christmas in Concert show, now entering its fifth year.[Submitted]
Stacey Musselman and Peter Henderson will get in the holiday spirit this weekend at Koinonia’s annual Christmas in Concert show, now entering its fifth year. [Submitted]
Koinonia Christian Fellowship’s “Christmas in Concert” performance may only be entering its fifth year, but yuletide entertainment has always been part of the Bloomingdale church’s December calendar. It’s been an evolution that has made the group discover where its talents lie.

“For years and years, we would do a Christmas musical every year as a church,” remembers Kathryn Hofer, executive director for the concert. “These musicals became very popular in the area. We would write our own script, find our own music, put everything together. We built that reputation over the years, and people just loved it.”

But the requirements of big productions took a toll on the creative team, and after some time off, the church tried a transition to musical/drama revue. The experiment proved only mildly successful.

“It wasn’t really a great fit,” admits Hofer. “The audience was very generous, and we still had decent numbers, but we were sitting around our creative table, and we were going, ‘Okay, we are missing something here.’”

An epiphany came in 2009. “We were like, ‘You know, why are we trying to do something that we’re not? We are music.’ As a church, we have many gifted singers and musicians, and music is very core to our culture and DNA, so we were like, ‘Let’s just do a Christmas concert.’

“We did it that first year to rave reviews, and we said, ‘Okay, we’ve hit the nail on the head. This is what we are – this is our niche.’ And it’s just grown ever since.”

This year will give church members and community residents alike a chance to revisit the tuneful classics of the season, courtesy of a large choir, orchestra, and band. Seasonal mainstays like ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ and ‘Do You Hear What I Hear’ will play along with unexpected fare like a bagpipe performance of ‘Highland Cathedral’ and the Michael Bublé arrangement of ‘Jingle Bells.’ The show will also feature more original arrangements created by Koinonia members than ever before.

“All the musicians, all the vocalists, all of our production team, every single one of them are volunteers,” says Hofer. “They all attend this church and really love and believe in Christmas, and that Christmas music can really help and encourage people.”

She continued, “Not everyone is looking forward to the holiday season. It’s really our way of giving a gift to the community and saying, ‘Merry Christmas – we love Christmas, we hope this helps you have an amazing holiday season too.’”

So, there’s no seasonal ennui at this performance. “We hear a lot of feedback that it’s such an encouraging show. People leave feeling a little bit happier and a little bit more excited about Christmas, which is part of our goal. That’s why we always do it a little bit earlier in December – to get people excited and ready for the holiday season.”

Indeed, the holiday season doesn’t quite end at Koinonia: Hofer will start preparing for 2014’s concerts almost as soon as 2013’s are finished.

“We take January off, and then in February we send emails out about music,” she says. “I start collecting music suggestions for next year – we try to do it when people have just listened to holiday music. I start in February with my core team, and we try to listen to all of the music and have our shortlist before it gets warm outside.”

She adds, “Listening to Christmas music in June is not ideal.”

Christmas in Concert will take place at Koinonia’s Bloomingdale location (850 Sawmill Rd.) December 7-8 at 4 and 7 p.m., and will also be performed in Woodstock (15 Vansittart Ave.) December 15 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and doors open one hour before each show. For more information, visit www.ChristmasInConcert.com.

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