The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Lincoln Theatre Company Choristers
Christmas Fantasia - November 30, 2017
by JR Keith
Calamity befell the Lincoln Theatre Company Choristers (LTCC) 25 hours before they were to take the stage for their first of 3 concerts. Their theater experienced a complete power failure! The community and school district stepped up to provide Lincoln High School's fantastic auditorium. With barely a moment's notice to orchestrate lighting, sound, and stage blocking, not to mention only a handful of rehearsal hours on an unfamiliar stage, LTCC rallied to bring forth a warm holiday evening which set my mood directly to “merry.”
Once inside the auditorium, everyone was greeted with hospitality and a cheery snack bar that offered delicious cookies, all kinds of candy bars, popped corn, and bottled water. We purchased an assortment of goodies and headed toward our seats. Within minutes... the chorus and director entered the stage.
(Click here to open the program in a new window.)
Director Eric Rainwater, introduced the program with a bit of trepidation... voicing concerns about the swift change of venue. But before the music began, he had the audience responding back to him boisterously, with great laughter and applause. We were all now settled in to see what this chorus could do under pressure.
The concert started with “Irving Berlin's Christmas,” a medley of “Happy Holiday,” “Snow,” “I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” — and the best-selling single of all time, “White Christmas.” Challenging jazz licks and chord progressions spanning several music genres make this medley difficult, and LTCC pulled it off with pizzazz! Next on the lineup was a favorite of mine, “The First Noel/Pachelbel's Canon.” While singing this beautiful rendition of a Christmas classic, I counted 5 tenors and basses and 16 sopranos and altos with a warm and welcoming balance emanating from the stage. After the applause, John Griffin sang solo, showcasing his storytelling prowess with “I Wander as I Wander.” Utilizing a depth of vocal range and artistry, Griffin encouraged the audience to ponder a moment during this song of reflection.
The next medley was from Broadway's Elf the Musical, and it nearly brought the house down with extended applause. Borrowing from the notes on the J.W. Pepper & Son website about this medley: “Break out the elf hats and candy cane choreography for this sparkly five-minute medley from Broadway's newest holiday tradition, inspired by the hilarious Will Ferrell film. Two merry showstoppers are bookended by the fabulous ‘Sparklejollytwinklejingley’ to create a cheerful, Christmassy extravaganza! Includes: ‘Sparklejollytwinklejingley,’ ‘Christmastown’ and ‘A Christmas Song’” This piece was one of several joyful highlights LTCC enacted. I made a note that all three soloists added their “sparkle,” beautiful vocals, and a sense of style to these rousing renditions.
As LTCC exited, the Junior Choristers (JCs) took to the stage and were an instant hit. They gave us their spirited version of “The Chipmunk Song” followed by the talented soloists, Rosie Watson, Sam Henderickson, and Grace Fidler, sharing their Caribbean take on the manger scene, “In De Stable.” This delightful Jamaican-influenced song was written by LTCC director Rainwater! To round out JCs' first-half set list, the kids got us moving with an up-tempo, rockin' take on Johnny Marx's “A Holly Jolly Christmas” that included a moment of unison kazoos trumpeting the melody. We snapped our fingers from beginning 'till the end.
As the JCs took their bows, Penny Pearl and John Griffin came to the front of the stage. The audience was wooed by this smooth duet singing “Silver Bells.” Tabitha Jones wowed the audience with a impressive solo that reached HIGH C during “Variations on Jingle Bells,” an arrangement made famous by Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas, Texas back in 2001. This show-stopping, grueling piece of music incorporates at least 5 different versions of jingling those bells! Several in the audience took to their feet even before the final notes were sung.
For the Spanish lullaby “A la Nanita Nana,” the men left the stage as the LTCC ladies showcased their luscious altos, matched by the controlled, brilliant tones of their sopranos. The ladies' Spanish was spot on; I wish we could have heard another song or two from them. For the final song before intermission, the entire LTCC chorus was joined onstage by the JCs, bringing chills of memories past, moving us to tears of joy as we reflected on selections from the movie, The Polar Express.
During Intermission we stood and stretched on our way back to purchase more snacks, and returned for the final half of the concert that began with a casual introduction to the “Community Sing Along.” What fun we had singing with the chorus and kids, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” — with the audience singing as the kids (and I) shouted the fun echo parts the second time through. Then there was “Jingle Bells” and “The 12 Days of Christmas”— with 12 of JCs' finest singing the days (featuring onstage acrobatics as they shared a mere handful of stand microphones). The sing along ended with the traditional “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” While the stage cleared, a quartet of ladies entered. Among them were LTCC mom and JCs daughter, Jeanna and Kaitlyn MacLeod. They all captured our hearts with a stirring rendition of “Silent Night,” featuring backup harmonies and acoustic guitar. Kaitlyn was a star on the stage taking lead for the quartet.
For the next song, the JCs were accompanied by “too cool for school” soloist, Sam Hendrickson, singing the rockabilly tune, “My Heart is Achin'.” The audience cheered and giggled throughout this light-hearted comedic/melodramatic take on Joseph's perspective about the discovery that his wife-to-be was “with child.” During “Where Are You Christmas?” our focus was drawn to two gentle, JCs soloists. Maddie Lewis's sweet, artistic tone along with Ayla Kubochi's sensitive, alluring style brought us the melancholy introduction to the song. When the other JCs joined in, there were sniffles and a moment of emotion I could sense all around me. I made a note of how “suddenly there was a mood-changing modulation as the JCs segued into the optimism Christmas brings all year around.”
The audience was then moved by a mother-daughter duet. Tabitha and Kay Jones delivered a tender portrayal of “Christmas Is a Feeling.” The harmonies between the two were delightful, with Tabitha once again sharing her talented soprano voice, blending exquisitely with Kay's tender-hearted, velvety alto tones. The LTCC joined the ladies onstage for an animated, montage of music that Dr. Suess would have appreciated: “Grinch! – A Christmas Medley!” The JCs girls came onto the stage with the LTCC backing them as they sang an adorable version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus!”
With all LTCC singers onstage, the modern-day classic “Text Me Merry Christmas” began with JCs soloist, Grace Fidler who had a mature-beyond-her-years alto range followed by great solos once again from Hendrickson and Kubochi.
Before the finale, LTCC performed “Almost There,” an emotive, gripping song about hope, vigilance, and determination while traveling toward the birthplace of Christ. This was followed by crowd favorite “Patapan Fantasia,” which celebrated a young flautist and drummer making joyful noises to honor the baby Jesus. The last song, “We Wish You the Merriest,” featured the LTCC, the JCs, and soloist Tabitha Jones. With the JCs flanking the LTCC, there were festive echoes back and forth between the youngsters and adults.
On this first of their holiday concerts, the LTCC faced any fears head-on and put on an impressive show! Most notable about the Junior Choristers was the fact that every song they sang had choralography and acting. And the Lincoln Theatre Company Choristers’ perseverance in the face of an obstacle such as the one they encountered was inspirational. Their diligence, hard work, and hours upon hours of rehearsals paid off — and your audience thanks you!
JR Keith has worn a variety of hats: director, soloist, small and large ensemble member, tenor/baritone, and event planner of choruses from Texas to California, such as FBC Frisco, TX; CCCC Jazz Choir; DBU Chorus; several mission/worship teams; Sanctuary 101; Collin County Community Choir; Turtle Creek Chorale; Dallas Symphony Chorus; Amador Choraliers; and the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus.