Musical unity enhances Christmas season

Churches, community share talents in annual concert

MORGAN HILL, Calif. — With a snap, snap, snap of her graceful fingers, Joan Locsin set the rhythm and the combined children's, youth and adult choirs of St. Catherine Catholic Church launched another South Valley Community Christmas Concert on Saturday evening, Dec. 9. The energetic conductor, her long silver hair flowing with her motion, soon had the choir swaying to the exuberant beat of "Jesus, What a Wonderful Child."

The concert, begun by the Morgan Hill California Stake, this year's host, more than 20 years ago with a few ward choirs, now includes community and church choral groups from several cities.

"We hosted the concert for about ten years," said stake President Derrell Foote. "Then our building was closed for renovation and we asked St. Catherine's to host it. Now we alternate each year."

Dennis Kennedy, mayor of Morgan Hill for 12 years, said, "I applaud the LDS Church. These concerts get our Christmas season off to a good start."

Two youth groups highlighted the evening. Zion, comprised of about 40 high school students from three San Jose stakes, interspersed their songs with scriptures and comments. Director Christy Williams started participation in the concert with a group of a few students in her ward about 10 years ago. Now, youth must audition and have clearance from their bishops. Attendance at seminary and weekly practices is mandatory.

Sister Williams said, "My goal is testimony building, not perfect music. We develop our program theme during the summer and give several music firesides in addition to our Christmas concert."

The Gilroy High School Chamber Singers sang a capella. Director Phil Robb has directed children and adult choirs in Gilroy for more than 24 years and, in a town famous for its agriculture and annual Garlic Festival, he has built a reputation for choral excellence.

The Rev. Eugene O'Donnell of St. Catherine Church said, "This concert builds bridges between different churches and groups. We get to know each other and build relationships. Relationships are important in building better communities. This concert helps us celebrate the season and promotes peace, love, understanding, reconciliation and forgiveness."

Dan Harrison directed the Morgan Hill stake choir, with members from San Jose, Gilroy, Hollister and Morgan Hill. He closed the concert with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, inviting everyone to join in.

Mayor Kennedy, who once sang in St. Catherine's choir, hurried to join choir members. "I just love to sing!" he exclaimed.