Singers rehearse at Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church in mid-November for upcoming Sequim Community Christmas Chorus performances. (Michael Dashiell / Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Singers rehearse at Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church in mid-November for upcoming Sequim Community Christmas Chorus performances. (Michael Dashiell / Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim revives its Christmas Chorus

Community performances set this weekend

SEQUIM — After a three-year hiatus, it’s once again time to lift up Sequim’s voices.

With a near four-decade tradition, the Sequim Community Christmas Chorus is back for a trio of performances in early December.

Performances are set for 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church, 30 Sanford Lane.

“It’s so genuine and it’s so Sequim,” director Steven Humphrey said.

The concerts include more than a dozen songs, some of them designed for soloists, some medleys and others that call for audience participation.

“It’s a wonderful little gem of folks getting together to sing about the nativity,” Humphrey said.

“It eschews all the commercialism and tinsel, and really gets down to what Christmas is about. It’s such an institution; you can’t help but love it and enjoy it.”

Admission is by donation. Tickets are available through today at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, 1192 E. Washington St., and Hi-Way 101 Diner, 392 W. Washington St. They also will be offered at the door until organizers run out of available seats.

Longtime chorus participant Karla Morgan got started in the early years — she estimated she got involved in the late 1980s — after a friend suggested she come and do some of the narrations to songs and hymns.

“I love to read out loud and do narrations,” Morgan said.

A frequent chorus participant over the years and a regular since 2016, Morgan will read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Christmas Bells” this year.

She said she couldn’t pick a favorite from this year’s selections.

“I prefer traditional Christmas carols and even an occasional hymn that points us to the incarnation, [but] it certainly is challenging and fun to do something outside those parameters,” Morgan said.

She said the audience will enjoy both voices and musicians at the upcoming performances.

“The people who are doing the solos are great … and if they listen carefully, one of the best highlights is the pianist, Mark (Johnson),” Morgan said.

“We’ve got a good team.”

Other musicians include John Zuerner on oboe and Susie Herrick on flute.

Humphrey’s chorus involvement started when he and his wife, chorus singer and soloist Kyra, moved to the Olympic Peninsula. For years the chorus was led by Gary McRoberts and in recent years by Louise Pluymen, but the chorus was searching for a new director to bring about the 2023 concert when Pluymen was unavailable, Humphrey said.

“We started talking last spring [that] if we don’t get it started soon [it might not happen],” Humphrey said.

“Kyra and I kind of jumped in.”

Getting the chorus jump-started, he said, was a challenge after the three-year hiatus.

“So much institutional knowledge sort of dissipated,” Humphrey said. So he set about gathering what notes and music was left from previous performances, and then getting singers on board.

“So many lives have changed in three years; everybody is sort of out of habit,” Humphrey said.

While numbers are a bit down from years past, the chorus is about 40 members strong for the 2023 concerts.

A conversation Humphrey had with some friends from graduate school led to a new piece — a premier, in fact — in this year’s offerings: “See, amid the Winter’s Snow” composed by Humphrey’s friend Dr. Theodore Deacon, based on an 1858 poem by British poet Edward Caswall.

Humphrey said among his favorite pieces in the program are three by John Rutter (“Christmas Lullaby,” “Shepherd’s Pipe Carol” and “Candlelight Carol”).

Humphrey joins Johnson midway through the concerts for four-hand-piano arrangements of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “What Child is This?” and “Bring A Torch, Jeannette, Isabella.”

The singing commences with “Peace, Peace” and transitions to “Silent Night,” accompanied by Zuerner and Herrick, and the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Said Humphrey: “It’s a varied program, just over an hour. It’s very much a community event.”

A trio of locals offer the welcoming on different concert dates: Pastor Mark Pekar of Sequim Seventh-day Adventist on Friday Pastor Desi Larson of Trinity United Methodist Church on Saturday and Elder Tom Saffold of Olympic Bible Fellowship on Sunday.

“The Christmas Chorus is really unique: anybody can come, anybody can sing and be a part of it,” Morgan said.

“I’m really glad it’s back.”

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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