|By Lori Szepelak
Ken Bryars, minister of music and media at Bethany Assembly of God, 580 Main St., Agawam, conducted a dress rehearsal on the evening of Dec. 5 with Bethany Choir and Bethany Orchestra.
Reminder Publications photo by Lori Szepelak
AGAWAM – “It is our gift to the community.”
The “gift,” according to Ken Bryars, minister of music and media at Bethany Assembly of God on Main Street, is the Singing Christmas Tree, which will be presented several times over the first two weekends of December.
This month marks the 39th annual presentation of the church’s “Christmas Gift to the Pioneer Valley,” which features a towering 25-foot steel structure in the shape of a Christmas tree. During a dress rehearsal on the evening of Dec. 5, while “angels” decorated a smaller tree on stage and shepherds waited for their cue in the pews, Bryars was focused on ensuring every last detail was double checked before this weekend’s premiere.
The Bethany Choir of approximately 60 becomes the “ornaments” to the tree, and the Christmas spectacular is a musical celebrating the Advent of the Christ-child. Accompanying the choir is the Bethany Orchestra, providing a musical experience in celebration of the birth of Jesus.
This year’s musical is titled “The Gift of Christmas,” and starts with a medley of Christmas carols and hymns, continues with old and new songs tracing the events of the birth of Jesus, and ends with an arrangement of “Joy to the World” and “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Along with the music, Bethany’s Drama Department, under the direction of Marilene Allen of the Red Door Theatre in town, will trace the story in a drama and re-enactment of the events leading up to the birth of the Christ child.
“We endeavor to present the true meaning of Christmas in a fresh and inspiring way each year,” Bryars said, who is now celebrating his 22nd Singing Christmas Tree event. “With all the buying and exchanging of gifts at Christmas, we once again need to be reminded of the ultimate ‘Gift of Christmas’ God gave to us in His Son.”
Bobbi Snyder of Agawam, a church member since 1972, has sung in each of the singing trees and encourages area residents to put it on their “to do family list.”
“The whole production is bathed in prayer,” she said. “Even though you know the story you hear the story again for the first time which can change hearts.”
Bob Conti of Agawam, a choir and church member since 1976, echoed the sentiments of Snyder.
“The concert has become a tradition with families,” he said, noting the high caliber production. “Presentations are never the same and it is a wonderful way to kick off the Christmas season.”
Bryars added that the bright lights of the tree “dance” with the rhythm of the music, providing a “delightful sight to the sound.”
All seats are free, with no individual reserved seating. Pre-arranged seating for larger groups can be made by calling the church office at 789-2930. A nursery for infants is also provided for each presentation.
Presentations are Dec. 13 at 7 p.m., Dec. 14 at 6 p.m., and Dec. 15 at 3 and 6 p.m. Bethany’s Deaf Ministry will also provide signing at all presentations.
“I enjoy the festival atmosphere created by the Singing Christmas Tree Spectacular,” Bryars said. “A lot of hard work and preparation goes into the musical, with the choir and orchestra rehearsals, the lights and sound, the drama, as well as the actual construction of the tree. To see it all come together as a special gift to those who attend each evening makes it all worthwhile, not just to me, but to all who participate.”
Bryars noted that to present the meaning of Christmas in an age where the true meaning can be lost in the “retail blitz of gift buying” is the most gratifying to him.
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