Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Service of Carols, Communion and Candlelight

First Baptist Church
Shelby, NC
December 24th, 2009

With the holidays upon us, the Music Binge was on the road this week, visiting and celebrating with family. Given the nature of this blog, I was desperate for a show to write about to fulfill my weekly obligation, but had thus far come up empty. On Christmas Eve, I found myself wondering how, and more importantly where, I was going to manage to see anything remotely relevant to this project. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about it for long. As I sat with my family in a small church in a little town called Shelby, North Carolina, the sounds of an orchestra pierced the night and I realized I had found the source for my weekly write-up…

Many readers may find it strange to see a review of a Christmas Eve church service posted here alongside entries about various rock and metal acts that may or may not sit at the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum. If so, I’d ask that those people go back and read my initial post for this blog (So What's It All About?). In my mind, music is music and art is art. There are no boundaries. There are no styles, classifications or labels that will be omitted here. I encourage people to think outside of the box when it comes to music (or anything for that matter) and don’t be afraid to give anything a listen…you never know what may come of it.

Stepping down from my pulpit (no pun intended), I’ll now get back to the business at hand. The small orchestra, consisting of strings, horns and percussion, played through various Christmas carols as the crowd continued to file into the church. Given the daily rigors of life…work, traffic, relationships, work…I oftentimes find it difficult to get into the “Christmas spirit”, but more than any other time this holiday season, I felt it at that specific moment. It’s truly amazing, the effects that music can have on your mood and on your overall frame of mind.

The orchestra soon gave way to a hand bell choir that was incredibly fascinating to watch and of course to hear. A group of probably fifteen or so men and women, each with different sized bells, some small and high pitched, others larger and lower in sound, were led through another series of soothing Christmas carols. This was turning into quite the holiday event.

The Christmas Eve ceremony that followed was filled with some amazing musical endeavors. Listening to a duet of “Gesu Bambino” by Rachel and Mary Roby (mother and daughter), I felt like the church had been transformed into an Italian opera house. A solo performance of “O Holy Night” by Gina McWhirter was equally impressive. And of course the requisite church choir singing carols like “O Come, All Ye Faithful”, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World” over the traditional duo of piano and pipe organ was simultaneously awe inspiring and comforting.

Sitting there with my family, the whole experience made me both nostalgic for the more innocent time of my childhood and thankful for all that I have now as an adult. By the time the entire congregation stood together (the place awash with the glow from the candles each person held in front of them) singing “Silent Night, Holy Night”, I knew that this Christmas Eve service had given me all the material and the inspiration I needed for my next entry into the Year Long Music Binge.

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