Singing Christmas Tree drama is ‘On the Air’By Charmain Z. Brackett Correspondent
When a radio personality is involved in a car accident and can’t work her Thanksgiving shift, newsman Dallas Street must take over the station’s transition to all-Christmas music as the clock hits midnight.
“He’s not happy about it at all,” said Tommy Sunderland, Abilene Baptist Church’s associate pastor of music and media, about the premise for the drama that will go along with the church’s Singing Christmas Tree. The annual event will be presented the weekend of Dec. 8-10 at the church.
Written by Sunderland’s daughter Katheryn Gravenor, On the Air … It’s Christmas! shows the transformation of the hard-boiled news radio host from a Scrooge to someone who embraces the true meaning of Christmas.
This is the 39th annual event and Sunderland said it takes the entire church to put on the production. His wife Lisa, who is a music teacher at Martinez Elementary School, plays a large part, and Sunderland’s other daughter, Amy Atkinson, has written dramas in previous years.
Each year, the production brings back songs from prior years and incorporate other music. The format this year was well suited for holiday music, he said.
Nearly 100 singers will be part of the tree that stands more than 30 feet tall, and there will be an orchestra of about 35 musicians. While most of the musicians attend Abilene, sometimes other musicians are brought in.
Behind the scenes, there are numerous volunteers who construct the tree and take it down, place the greenery and decorations and fill in where needed.
Sunderland said it takes about a year of preparation to get the production ready with the idea for the next year formulating not long after a production is finished.
“In August, we kick off with our musicians, introducing them to the music and concept,” he said.
The singers add an extra rehearsal in every two weeks in addition to their regular Wednesday night rehearsal.
There will be four presentations of the Singing Christmas Tree at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8; 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10. Tickets are free; however, there is a $1 service fee if they are downloaded online at www.myabilene.org/sct. Tickets may be picked up at the church office at 3917 Washington Road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 9 a.m. to noon Friday.
The church seats about 1,100 people and there have been some performances that required an overflow room.
"Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God; for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his faith."
- Thomas Merton.
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