Texas musicians and artists collaborate on first-ever virtual Christmas concert

Dec 11, 2020 | by Brad Rowland

Texas musicians and artists collaborate on first-ever virtual Christmas concert

By: Brad Rowland

On Saturday, Dec. 5, the Texas Division of The Salvation Army released its first-ever virtual Christmas Concert, with high-profile guests, across-the-board participation and a goal to raise funding to continue vital work in the state. While the setting was not traditional due to COVID-19 restrictions, Matthew Broome, divisional music and arts director, set the tone of celebration and fellowship from the outset of the virtual presentation.

“Christmas is going to look a little different this year, but it’s still a time for celebration, still a time for generosity and compassion," Broome said during the concert. "We would love to celebrate with you in person, but like most things in 2020, we’re having to find creative and safe ways to continue our programs.”

The concert featured performances from several divisional groups, including Texas Brass, Lonestar Brass, Texas Divisional Creative Arts Ensemble, Texas Divisional Band, Texas Divisional Youth Chorus and Texas Divisional Singing Company, which provided a poignant conclusion to the virtual gathering. The concert was also the culmination of months of work, including ongoing rehearsals and mentorship.

"This was a result of our DMA (divisional music and arts) programming," said Broome. "We had divisional bandsmen help out with lessons, and that was a great experience to help build relationships, even virtually. We were able to work on this production and rehearse in the fall."

Special guests were featured throughout, helping to draw attention and providing support for the divisional ensembles.

Yuliana Martinez, winner of "The Voice" in Mexico, was a guest vocal soloist; she grew up learning music at The Salvation Army in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. World-renowned euphonium soloist David Childs, now a professor at the University of North Texas, and trumpet soloist Elmer Churampi of the Dallas Symphony also performed. In addition, Marty Mikles came alongside the Texas Divisional Creative Arts team for a collaboration on a beautiful setting of the traditional carol, "O Holy Night."

"Our guests were great," Broome said. "We reached out to them, and several had worked with us in the past at our in-person concerts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They were gracious enough to give their talents as an offering. They've been helping us share the concert as well. It was a really kind thing of them to do during this period when we're all trying to raise support for challenging times."

Intertwined with the music and arts selections, Major Mike Harris spoke of The Salvation Army's work and the Christmas spirit.

"We tried to focus externally. Major Mike Harris was our narrator, and he did a tremendous job. We were able to highlight our Christmas work that we're most known for, as well as social services, ARC, Boys & Girls Clubs (and) Pathway of Hope, and finally, he was able to tell the Christmas story and explain why the Army does what it does."

The concert has already raised nearly $10,000; donations continue to be accepted at give.salvationarmytexas.org/christmasconcert. As seen in the video, the event featured "platinum level" sponsors Data Paradigm Inc., and Brook Mays and H&H Music, with several individual donors.

Production of the virtual presentation was entirely in-house, with Broome the producer and members of the divisional music and arts team contributing. Ghodard Diavangama, assistant divisional music director, mixed and edited the audio. Manny Munoz, assistant divisional music director, edited the video. Sara Elliott, deputy divisional music and arts director, wrote the script with creative help from Bethany Farrell, territorial creative arts director.

All told, more than 120 Salvationist musicians and artists were featured, representing 27 Salvation Army corps across Texas.

"We've typically done a Dallas-Fort Worth area concert, but because our division is so large, we don't normally do a division-wide program like some others do," said Broome. "So that was a hidden blessing from this trying time, that we were able to do something divisionally that we hadn't been able to do in the past – bringing together people from all over the division and seeing great involvement."

Videos of individual elements of the presentation can be found here, and the full concert can be seen below.

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