The Hannibalians who make the Mark Twain Chorale Christmas concert an annual event had an extra treat on Saturday, Dec. 15, when they attended “A Miracle of Christmas.”
Not only did the chorale have a symphony from Poland accompanying a portion of its concert, the second act was a children’s Christmas opera presented by The Messiah Project. This was “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”
Serving as emcee, Pastor David Scott of Arch United Methodist Church first introduced the Forum Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra from Krakow, Poland. The orchestra had been playing Christmas carols, such as “O Come All Ye Faithful,” while the audience was being seated in Parker Theatre at the Roland Fine Arts Center at Hannibal-LaGrange University.
Pastor Scott announced the concert would later be broadcast at 5 p.m. Christmas Eve on KHMO Radio.
Scott was pleased to report that his wife, Lori Scott, was director of the chorale. The piano accompanist was Bonnie Campbell, with Leslie McCoy also serving as pianist.
Instrumentalists with the chorale were John Ferguson, Louisa Foreman, Linda St. Juliana and Frank North.
The concert-opening number, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” was presented a cappella by the chorale.
Later the chorale combined two popular Christmas songs, “White Christmas” and “Happy Holidays,” then did a rollicking rendition of “Deck the Halls” incorporating “Fa La La” into other familiar tunes.
At the conclusion of the chorale’s eight songs, the director introduced the orchestra from Poland, then she directed the combined chorale and orchestra for the highlight of the evening. This was three selections from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Pastor Scott had instructed the audience that no applause is proper until all the parts of “The Messiah” have been sung, and for the final Hallelujah chorus the audience is to stand.
This was a moving moment, and was followed by a lengthy applause from the audience.
Following intermission The Messiah Project of Springfield, Mo., presented a one-act children’s opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”
As he announced the opera, Pastor Scott explained that in the story “we see the miracle of Christmas through the eyes of a child.”
The setting is a Jewish home Amahl, a crippled boy, shares with his impoverished mother. He sings about seeing a star shining like crystal. His mother does not believe him.
When four kings arrive at their home late that night - on their journey to find the newborn king - Amahl is very excited but cannot convince his mother there are kings at the door. This was an amusing part of the opera.
Page 2 of 2 - Amahl asks one “are you really a king?” When told yes, he asks if the king has royal blood, then asks to see it.
A group of local people arrive with food - as requested by Amahl’s mother - to feed the kings, and this part of the play includes a performance by some young dancers.
The kings explained they were taking gifts to the newborn king. When Amahl learns this, he gives them his crutch for the baby, although he cannot walk without it. Then a miracle occurs.
All the dialogue is presented in song. As Amahl, Silas Brown exhibited an amazing voice for a 9-year-old.
After the performance, Silas’ mother explained that he is home-schooled and takes voice lessons. And Silas plans to continue with his music.
See chorale concert photo gallery for more pictures.