From its humble beginnings in 1883 as the first organized religious group in town that met in a small carpenter shop on Main Street, the Montrose United Methodist Church has been a center for community life, especially during the holiday season. The Christmas programs it presents for the community each year in its beautifully decorated sanctuary have continued to grow and are anticipated with great enthusiasm to help celebrate the season with music and songs.
Dec. 5 kicks off the 2019 season with the first concert in the Music at Noon Series featuring Harps and Hammers with Robin Freed. These free noon concerts have been popular since their inception many years ago in conjunction with the Montrose Arts Council. Attendees are welcomed to bring a sack lunch to eat as they enjoy the music.
The second concert will be Dec. 11 featuring a Vocal Ensemble from the church’s music department accompanied by Connie Stoutt on the organ. The third and last concert of this season will feature the Ringers of Glory Bell Choir under the direction of Kelly Thompson, who has been with the MUMC for the past 19 years and music director for the past 10 years.
“The Bell Choir began long before I joined the MUMC. This year we will have a penny whistle player join us,” he said.
“Christmas music is some of my favorite music because it exudes joy, promise and hope. We have an incredible team of musicians and singers who are super dedicated to the programs.” He said that some of them participate every Sunday from 8:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. and also attend the many rehearsals for the special programs.
In addition to the Music at Noon Concerts, there are several other popular programs planned for the season. A traditional Lessons and Carols service, which is normally held on Christmas Eve, is now held at the beginning of December.
“We decided to move the Lessons and Carols service to kick off Advent,” said Thompson. “I used to sing the service with a 100-member choir and ten years ago I said, ‘let’s start a program here.’”
This is the 10th season for the Lessons and Carols service at the MUMC. From the first program of a dozen voices and 77 people in attendance, the service has grown in popularity and when attendance hit 566, it was decided to have two programs and give out free tickets.
“This year’s Lessons and Carols is an “out of the box” program,” according to Thompson, who will be directing the Jazz Ensemble and Celebration Voices.
“All I Want for Christmas…” is a choral jazz celebration of the season with jazz and gospel music. Performances will be Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, at p.m. Free tickets can be picked up at the church office at 19 S. Park Avenue for either date during regular business hours, Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
On Dec. 12, a Taizé Worship Service begins at 7 p.m. This is a monthly meditative service of scriptures, prayers and music. The Taizé service originated in France after WWII as a contemplative service and is a perfect time to slow down in the middle of the busy Christmas season.
The Blue Christmas service on Dec. 19 from 7 - 8:30 p.m. is a prayerful time to remember loved ones. Many people are sorrowful during the Christmas season.
“This is a healing service for those who have experienced a recent loss or wish to remember loved ones,” Thompson said. “It’s an opportunity for people to remember in a healing way.” There will be guest cellist for this service.
A new program this year will be held on Dec. 21 at 10 a.m. The Ray of Sunshine Signing Choir will present a free concert for families. Members of this choir are ages third grade to adults.
There will be four Christmas Eve services on Dec. 24 in the main sanctuary. The 4 p.m. service is for children and families featuring the Nativity and carols. The 5:30 p.m. service will be a candlelight service with the choir and carols. At 8 p.m., the candlelight service will feature lessons and carols and the 11 p.m. candlelight service will also be a communion service.
Arlyn Macdonald is a freelance writer for the Montrose Daily Press and author of four books.