by ASHLEY MILLER
for the Sequim Gazette
Like the first snow of the year, the annual Sequim Community Christmas Chorus holiday concert series is eagerly awaited.
Once again, the 70-voice chorus is singing with a special purpose. A portion of the proceeds from each concert and donations from First Federal and other organizations will be given to Sequim Community Aid.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 4-5. Sequim Bible Church has hosted the holiday concerts since 2005.
Director Gary McRoberts has arranged what he describes as a "memorable" program for the 2010 concert that celebrates the "true meaning of Christmas:" the birth of Christ and the love he brings to people.
"There's enough commercialization of Christmas already and we want to get away from that and back to the true meaning of the holiday," McRoberts said, describing the group's song choices as sacred rather than secular.
"We're particularly excited about debuting a new piece, 'The Newborn Christ,'" McRoberts said.
The song was written especially for the chorus by Sequim composer Karen Williamson, who will accompany the chorus on the piano during the debut, along with Linda Bauer on the organ.
The chorus will open each of the three performances with "Choral Fanfare for Christmas." Other selections include "Mary Did You Know," "A King Is Born," "The Birthday of a King," "Who's That Little Baby," "For Christ Was Born of Mary Free," "Three Far-Eastern Carols," "Silent Night," and "Gloria in Excelsis Deo."
Kayla Dyment, a Port Angeles music teacher, will accompany the chorus on the piano.
McRoberts invites the audience to join the chorus in singing several familiar carols, such as "Peace, Peace" and the ever-popular "Hallelujah Chorus."
Soloists and guest performers include Brian Doig, Josh Smith, Pam Gordon, Marlene Moore, Brooke Jackobson, Johanna Jacobson and the Sequim High School Brass Ensemble.
McRoberts has served as director of the chorus since 2006. He has more than 30 years experience directing high school, college, church and community choruses.
The chorus is open to singers of all ages, backgrounds, religions and levels of experience. Participation is free and doesn't require an audition. Rehearsals begin in September and disband after the December concerts.
The chorus has no religious affiliation and is presented by the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Each of the performances, McRoberts assured, is appropriate for families.
"It's the story of Christmas in song," he said. "Come enjoy a variety of music, from gospel and lullabies to folk songs from the earliest time and from all over the world."
A hand-up, not a handout
The decision to support Sequim Community Aid was a board decision, McRoberts said.
"We looked at all of the worthy organizations - and there are a lot of them - but Sequim Community Aid helps people when there's no other agency that will."
In 2009, the chorus donated more than $2,000 to the nonprofit group.
Sequim Community Aid, formed in 1947, provides assistance to families and individuals when their most basic needs for daily living are in jeopardy. Examples of help include paying for:
If assistance is needed in other departments, Sequim Community Aid gives referrals to other agencies that provide standard emergency, long-term and self-help assistance.
"We're still doing what we've always been doing and it's still very important," said Donna Tidrick, president.
From Sept. 1, 2009-Aug. 31, 2010, the group provided more than $49,000 in aid, which comes mostly from donations. The funds helped 546 adults and 373 children.
The nonprofit organization strives to help the "working poor" not the homeless, Tidrick emphasized.
"Trying to keep everybody warm with a roof over their head, that's our goal," Tidrick said. "I know homelessness is a problem on the peninsula but our focus is on keeping people in their homes with the heat and lights on."
In addition, Sequim Community Aid is responsible for the annual Toys for Sequim Kids in December, distributing gifts, toys, games, clothing and blankets to needy children. In 2009, toys, clothes and blankets were given to 425 children from infants to eighth-graders.
This year's toy drive is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 Blake Ave.
Toy donations can be dropped off at Clallam Fire District 3, 323 N. Fifth Ave.
Tax deductible donations can be sent to: Sequim Community Aid, P.O. Box 1591, Sequim, WA 98382.
For more information or to receive help in an emergency, call Sequim Community Aid's pager at 681-3731.