First United Methodist takes Christmas cantata to Clayton Center

The choir at First United Methodist Church is taking the message of Christmas out of church.

For 28 years, the choir has presented a Christmas cantata to the congregation members of their church. The event has become so popular that 2009 saw 1,600 attend three performances at the church, and countless more watch the WVLT-TV broadcast of the concert.

So this year, Director of Music Terry Wilson and Assistant Director Susan Daves are moving on out of the church setting by presenting a concert at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

The free concert will be on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. The choir will present their annual cantata that morning at the church as part of their worship service and then move across town to the Clayton Center.

Daves said folks who would never attend a church service might feel comfortable coming to the Clayton Center to hear a seasonal message. “The message of Christmas is universal,” said Daves. “This concert is non-denominational. No one talks about being Baptists, or Methodists or Presbyterians. It is the Christian message.”

The program will contain a combination of familiar Christmas carols and newly-composed Christmas music, said Wilson.

“The 7 p.m. program at the Clayton Center for the Arts will include all our choral and ensemble music, duets and orchestra,” Wilson said. “It will be a full hour of Christmas music. One of the most interesting aspects will be the presentation of two selections, ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,’ arranged by Mack Wilberg, PhD. He is the conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

Daves said the Dec. 12 service will be the “East Coast” première of the two arrangements because they were introduced during Christmas season of 2009. “As far as we know, no one else has heard these arrangements since then,” she said.

Wilson began talking with Wilberg’s assistant in April to get permission to use the two pieces. He had used Wilberg’s other arrangements in the past and was familiar with him.

“I’m sure they were surprised a local Tennessee church wanted to do these arrangements,” Daves said.

Wilson said a love offering will be taken at the door at the conclusion of the concert. It will benefit Family Promise of Blount County and the Welcome Table. “These are services supported by the community, and they are very needed,” he said.

There will be no tickets issued for the concert and seating is general admission. For more information, call 865-982-1273.

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