Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Gift of Christmas – Bethel Church 2010–*updated*

For 12 years, the Bethel Church has been putting on a large Christmas Concert and raising money for charities. This year, the charities were Samaritan’s Purse -- an International relief fund, and the ubiquitous Salvation Army, an International Christian relief fund.

Karen spotted the concert and felt that it might be nice to see this one while her sister was visiting. We all popped over to the Mongolian Grill for a quick dinner, before leaving for the church in hopes of getting their early enough to get a good seat. We did alright – stage right, fourth row.

The church is absolutely huge, with seating for about 1500 if I recall correctly.

The pews are padded, both seat and back and I must admit that it is the most comfortable church in which I have ever sat for any length of time.

A note on the camera I used here. The concert occurred during the brief period during which I could not find the F300EXR, it having been stashed in my overnight bag and forgotten for a few weeks. So I grabbed the F80EXR instead. You know how the song goes … If you can’t be shooting the one you love, you gotta shoot the one you’ have. Apologies for butchering a great lyric …

The stage was set up when we arrived, with the singing Christmas tree beautifully lit. It turns out that the tree is lit with some rather fancy lights that can be controlled in a pattern. One of the numbers this evening had the tree on display by itself, and the tree came alive to the music. Very impressive.

There were no introductions at the very beginning. Instead, an ensemble of about 8 singers, four men and four women came out and sang Christmas is the best Time of the Year.

Next, Pastor Paul Cassidy came out and introduced the concert, the church and the charities that were to be served by the proceeds. Pastor Cassidy served as the Master of Ceremonies the whole evening.

He was followed by the number Lighting of the Christmas Tree, Carol of the Bells.

Next, we have the Young Adult Ensemble singing Christmastime.

Another balanced ensemble followed, singing There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays.

The F80’s magnificent reach allows for some rather nice isolation shots. Note that I kept ISO at 800 all night. 1600 ISO has too much chroma noise, and I was shooting ASTIA film mode as an experiment. I don’t recommend ASTIA in low light for people, as the skin takes on a lot of red / orange. I process every image anyway, but it added time to deal with this.

At this point, a young man came out and explained the “Gift” that plays so prominently in the title of the concert. Every year, a family is reunited with a relative from a distant place as a surprise for the holidays. This year, A family form the Philippines with a heart-wrenching story of crises that required the mother to stay here in Canada while her youngster had to go home for treatment, this going on for several years. The boy was looked after by an aunt, and she was the one to be reunited with the whole family here in Canada. Unfortunately, she was unable to get a Visa for Canada (???) but on short notice she did get one for the USA. So she was calling in to the concert from Rochester, NY. Technical difficulties prevented things from working, but the family was to be flown to Rochester the next day to meet with her in person. So, a happy ending …

Next, we have a ladies trio with e children's choir aged 3-5 (not kidding.) They sing a medley of Silver Bells / Jingle Bells / Come on Ring Those Bells (sensing a theme here?)

Cute, or what?

Suddenly, Alvin and the chipmunks came out, played by a pastor and several members of the congregation (presuming here.)

Then, the entire children’s choir came out to sing Celebrate the King of Kings.

You can generally tell when someone spots the camera Smile

A lovely shot of a young lady in the thrall of the song …

Another young adult ensemble then came out and sang It’s a Christmas Thing. The fellow in the center with the fluorescent yellow pants is the best break dancer I’ve ever seen live. He easily matches anything I have seen on TV as well.

Then, a soloist came out and sang I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The ensemble pictured below joined him after a while. He remains seated in this image.

A couple of female soloists came out next and sang Don’t Save it all For Christmas Day. The were joined by another adult ensemble.

Next, Pastor Brian Jarvis came out dressed as a delivery man and went through a funny skit called, oddly enough, the Parcel Skit.

This was followed by the song Celebrating Jesus, sung by a soloist and ensemble.

The soloist appeared later on in the song … here’s a slightly blurry image of him.

And for the last song in Part 1 of the concert, the audience was asked to stand and sing along with Feliz Navidad and Go Tell it on the Mountain. I really enjoyed this part, I must say.

Part II opened with the climbing of the Singing Christmas Tree. The steps were so narrow that I was pretty surprised that anyone would agree to climb that thing :-) … but it probably looks a lot worse from a distance than it is …

The entire Bethel Choir opened with It Came to Pass.

There were then two songs with soloists, although I have captured only one of them here. The Bethel Choir backed every song in part II, so I won’t mention them explicitly any more.

The songs were We’re Not That Far From Bethlehem and Breath of Heaven, pictured below.

The top of the tree is really poorly lit, and that shows in this image.

Then came a troupe of Angel dancers with Born is the King.

We then had a Shepherd’s Quarter singing How Great Our Joy (not pictured, sorry.) Then This Baby and In Your Presence. The latter had a lovely soloist, pictured below with the two actors from both songs in the background. A nice ending to the main part of the concert, I must say.

Pastor Paul Cassidy came out to give an inspirational message … it was nice. This church has several programs designed to help people explore the meaning of life, something that no doubt many people could really use, especially when in crisis. It’s nice to know that communities like this exist.

The show closed with the entire choir and company on stage (and that’s a lot of people of all ages) singing  The Spirit of Christmas.

There’s always a ham Smile

Attention spans begin to flag …

And then they stop to present a gift to their new Choir Director. She’s only been with them for something like 6 months.

And it ends … here is a last shot from the last row dead center.

Very nice concert. I had fun shooting it, as I always do. Would have liked to have the D700 there …. but alas, that’s not gonna happen in a venue like this.

Merry Christmas everyone … I hope you get to see a concert of the season this year.

Update: Following is a video I put up on YouTube with a set of clips from the concert. Seven minutes of joy …

Bethel Church–A Gift of Christmas–Final Show–2010

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