Wonderful time of year: Maryville FUMC helps community get into spirit of season with annual concert
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After leading the music ministry for 30 years at First United Methodist Church in Maryville, the challenge for director Terry Wilson is how to make the old, new again.
That’s three decades of ushering in the Christmas season with popular carols and best-loved hymns.
At this director’s side for these 30 years is assistant Susan Daves. They’ve been collaborating and rehearsing now for months on this year’s concert by the FUMC Chancel Choir. It’s called “Hurry to Bethlehem!” and it will be presented next weekend at the church. As for what’s new, there’s heaping plenty.
For one, Wilson has invited a bagpiper, Tracy Wilson, to accompany this group of talented singers and musicians. Tracy is Terry’s nephew and he’s been playing the bagpipes for close to 15 years. Tracy is a music teacher at Dandridge Elementary School and a member of the Knoxville Pipes and Drums. He said it is an honor to be able to work with his uncle on this highly-anticipated annual performance.
“He called and asked me if I would be a part of the concert and I accepted,” Tracy said. “I love to play whenever I get the chance.”
All in the family
The Wilsons came together to decide which carols and hymns would sound amazing on the bagpipes and they’ve come up with a list. Tracy will be playing “The Little Drummer Boy,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.”
“The bagpipes only have nine notes so some things don’t work well,” Tracy said. “These are ones that will sound amazing.”
Tracy’s performance is just one new aspect of this year’s Christmas concert. Terry Wilson has written a carol that will be published next year. Few have heard it performed.
English composer John Rutter’s arrangements will be included in this one as well as that of Mack Wilberg, the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. There will even be a very unique arrangement of “Ding Dong Merrily on High” arranged by Stuart Nicholson, the organist at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.
“So here we have John Rutter from England, Stuart Nicholson from Ireland, Mack Wilberg from Utah and this strange composer from Maryville,” Terry Wilson pointed out. Add to that mix the distinct sound of the bagpipes and this year’s concert will be like no other.
And if that isn’t enough the pique your interest, there will be a couple of interesting arrangements of “Mary Had A Baby Boy” and “Away in a Manger” by Peter Breiner, a Slovak composer who has arranged some Christmas carols into the Baroque style. “Some people will see that as pretty cool, ”Wilson said.
A well-rounded performance
This presentation will feature the 60-member Chancel Choir, 38 musicians in the orchestra, the bagpiper and a children’s choir, Joy Singers, which is 20 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. The orchestra contains church and community members ranging in age from high school to one man in his 90s. Dwain Pesterfield will accompany the performance on the organ.
“The music for this year’s presentation is probably 85 percent new,” Terry Wilson said. “We always try to do a couple of things from the past.”
Daves said despite starting practice back in August, the choir doesn’t grow tired of the Christmas season before it gets here. Everyone realizes this is a ministry that reaches beyond FUMC. The choir even has adults in it that started out in the children’s choir, Daves said.
“That’s unusual because that means they have gone away to college and come back to be a part of this,” she said.
The sanctuary will be fully decorated with the sights and smells of Christmas, Daves and Wilson said. The performance will even be broadcast on Christmas Eve (noon and 12:34 a.m.) and Christmas Day (noon, 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.) on local television station WVLT.
“One thing the choir is committed to is the fact we know this is a ministry that reaches beyond our church,” Wilson said. “It will be televised and they understand it goes beyond the local church and Maryville.”
There are people in this community who definitely expect this Christmas gift in the form of a musical performance. Some watch on television because they can’t get out. Others make it family tradition to come witness it in person.
The community is invited to attend all three performances next weekend, Daves pointed out the Sunday morning concert will be an abbreviated version because it is presented during worship time. The two others are full-length.
These two who are in their 31st year at FUMC said they don’t know if there are other church music ministries that have been together as long. If there are, the number is probably small. It’s their goal to present a fresh, exciting, meaningful performance every year.