The passing of Thanksgiving officially heralds the start of the holiday season. But Mark Clay has had Christmas on the brain since August.
That’s when the music minister at First Baptist Church in Brunswick starts to prepare for the congregation’s annual Christmas pageant. And while that seems to be serious advanced planning, Clay notes that he begins organizing elements of the event even earlier.
“Rehearsals began in August ... however, the music was selected and plans were underway much earlier this year in order to produce the 10th anniversary presentation of the pageant. The choir and orchestra rehearse the music weekly throughout the fall, memorizing and learning the notes and lyrics,” he said.
“There are numerous meetings and work sessions necessary to produce a pageant of this scale and size, including stage and light programming, video displays, costumes and props, sanctuary décor, technical programming, promotion and so much more.”
As in previous years, there will be two presentations of the musical program — one at 5 and another at 7 p.m. Dec. 8. The sanctuary is often filled to the brim with guests from throughout the community, regardless of which church one attends.
It’s something that proves moving for Clay each year.
“FBC Brunswick has a long and storied history of inspirational music and worship. However, this is the 10th annual presentation of what is now known as the Brunswick/Golden Isles Christmas Pageant. We hope this will continue to be an outreach program to the entire Golden Isles,” he said.
While it is an annual event, Clay and the other musicians explore ways to make each program unique. That includes incorporating a number of arrangements that vary and switching up aspects of the production.
“There are some traditions that are included every year in the Brunswick-Golden Isles Christmas Pageant — the procession of the kings and the live nativity are most significant. Every year, the music is different, there are a variety of music ensembles and soloists, and our Christmas staging and decor changes,” he said.
“However, the message of Christmas is the same — God loved us and sent His son in the form of a baby. The Pageant offers something for everyone of any age.”
This year’s program will feature a number of the church’s choral ensembles, including the First Praise Choir; Adoration, an all female group; His Men, the male choir; as well as Joyful Praise, a group with both male and female singers. This year, they will perform a number of songs that have appeared prior as well and new pieces. Clay feels that the talent within the groups offer always make for a stellar performance.
“Our church is blessed with an extraordinary adult choir known as The First Praise Choir. A number of the members have studied music and others just love to sing,” Clay said.
“The FBC Brunswick orchestra, First Sounds will also be participating in the 10th Annual Pageant. This orchestra is comprised of some of the most gifted musicians in the Golden Isles, and accompanies worship services each week, The First Praise choir and also plays for special programs and events throughout the year. In addition, soloists, narrators, a large drama cast, ushers, greeters, nursery, production personnel, audio and lighting technicians will be adding their assistance and participation to the pageant.”
As the groups join together to stage the massive undertaking, Clay certainly understands the power of music this time of year. While they are songs many hear time and again, the themes are important to one’s faith and serve as a way of setting the tone for the most important time of year.
“The music of Christmas is unlike any other. From songs that clearly depict the birth of the Messiah, like ‘Away in a Manger,’ to songs that speak of Christmas holiday traditions, like ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas. ‘It fills the airwaves, fills our hearts and fills our collective remembrances, often calling to mind the strong emotions of the season,” Clay said.
“At the heart of Christmas music are the Christmas carols. Songs like these have been sung for generations, songs declaring the birth of the newborn king. This why we include in every pageant a Carol Medley, offering an opportunity for everyone in attendance to sing.”