Barrhead United Church and St. Anne's Catholic Church combined voices to produce their second annual cantata.
The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord" (2 Chronicles 5.13).
No trumpets. But make that a grand piano, one violin, 22 singers, one conductor and one narrator from the Barrhead United Church and St. Anne's Catholic Church praising God in the United Church.
On Dec. 16, under the direction of Susan Oleskiw of the United Church, the combined choir sang its second annual cantata.
Members from the two churches and the community came to be inspired by the music of this united choir. It soon became apparent to those listening that choir members were themselves inspired and uplifted by the recently published cantata, All Is Well.
Faithful to the Advent/Christmas story, David Angerman and Michael Barrett selected and arranged a combination of traditional carols and contemporary Christian music.
With conviction, the choir and soloists sang numbers like Prepare Ye the Way, O Saviour of Our Fallen Race, Breath of Heaven and Here I Am to Worship.
As suggested frequently throughout the Bible, the choir was singing a new song to God; they were playing skillfully on their instruments - Terese Koch on the piano and Dale Greig on his violin. The singers even shouted for joy.
For this cantata, the two choirs came together for mainly practical reasons. Koch, a member and volunteer musician at St. Anne's, has been a hired pianist at the United Church for 20 years.
When the United Church choir was short of sopranos, Koch found willing singers at her own church to help out. One year, altos from the United Church helped out at St. Anne's. This year, five of them joined us for our musical presentation before Midnight Mass.
Seeking more voices, the United Church had previously combined with its sister church in Whitecourt, but that required considerable winter driving.
During a particularly tough winter, someone asked, "Why don't we team up with a local choir?" Connections already made, St. Anne's was invited to be their partner choir.
Our leaders, Oleskiw and Chris Mast pick out the music and make plans. Mast says, "Somebody had to pick up the baton," so that became Oleskiw.
Mast has a strong voice and loves singing, but being director at St. Anne's limits her own singing. With a good ear for music, Mast helps Oleskiw by listening to the parts, the timing, and the parts that need extra work.
Koch, the pianist, says working together with the two choirs "makes the difference (between the two churches) a little less. Doing the cantata, we are all praising God and we are all celebrating the story of Jesus coming down to earth."
Laughing, she adds, "From a practical point of view, I don't have to learn two sets of music."
To round out the evening, audience members were invited to share their talents. It became an old-fashioned Christmas concert. Local poet, Audrey Shield presented her Granny Wrap, a rap she wrote for her students at the library. Dominique Shulhan, who is working on her master's degree in music, and Gavin Goodwin played a lively, seasonal saxophone medley.
Pope Benedict, in a Nov. 10 talk, commended a group singing in the Sistine Chapel for its excellent music. He spoke of sacred music bolstering people's faith and drawing lapsed believers back to the faith.
"Sacred music can, above all, promote faith," the pope said, "and what's more, cooperate in the new evangelism." Further, he said, sacred song can cooperate "in nourishing and expressing the faith and, therefore, in glorifying God and sanctifying the faithful."