by Morinville News Staff
The sounds of the season will ring out from St. Jean Baptiste Church Dec. 18 as the community comes together for the 36th Annual Community Christmas Celebration, a seasonal interdenominational evening of Christmas music that organizers are once again hoping will bring residents and visitors together as it has for the past three-and-a-half decades.
Organizers believe the event continues to be popular in Morinville because it hits all members of the community and has a real community feel to it.
Part of that community feel is due to the committee’s long-standing tradition of maintaining the event’s original intent of not being merely a Christmas concert where people come to watch people perform. Rather, the magic of the event is its participatory nature. Carol singing, scripture readings and gathering together as one group, regardless of denomination or adherence to any faith has filled the pews year after year.
Committee member and co-organizer Nadine Trenchard sees the event as a seasonal pause that really matters. “The evening of the Morinville Community Christmas Celebration gives us all a break from that business of the Christmas season: that shopping, baking, organizing everything for the schools,” Trenchard said. “It gives us a time to just sit and enjoy the spirit of Christmas and just to take a break.”
While the event draws a diverse group of denominations, it also draws a diverse group of musical talent. The committee’s only ground rule is that the music must be Christmas music; beyond that anything goes in terms of musical style. This year’s celebration will once again include the Morinville Minstrels Seniors’ Choir, student choirs from local schools, musicians and singers from local churches, each taking a role in the programming for the evening. The Bulger Family will return to the holiday tradition, leading carolers in song, and local businessman and rocker Paul Smith will take to the stage this year to offer his unique take on a Christmas carol classic with fellow musician David LeBel.
Though Trenchard is now organizing the event, she has memories of attending as a child in the days when former Morinville teacher, school board trustee, and Citizen of the Year John Unsworth was running the event.
In its inaugural year in 1978, staff and students of École Georges P. Vanier School invited parents and the general public to a traditional Christmas concert in the school’s gymnasium. The response was so positive, Unger organized the first full Community Christmas Celebration the following year at St. Jean Baptiste Church, inviting other Morinville churches to participate. Over the next eight years the event evolved into what organizers say was the community’s most anticipated annual event. Unsworth moved to British Columbia in 1988, at which time the annual celebration was taken over by a small group of dedicated volunteers who wanted to see the event continue. It has done so for more than three decades.
Trenchard is hoping the community will once again come out and fill St. Jean Baptiste Church for an evening of song and celebration. That celebration takes place Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but organizers are asking for monetary donations to help the Knights of Columbus purchase perishable food items for the Christmas Hamper program. The perishable items supplement the non-perishable food that has already been received.