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‘Acoustic Christmas’ at Maplewood Church Stirs the Heart

A concert at a Maplewood church featuring some rarely-heard Christmas carols provided a soothing counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of the season.

If you weren't at last Saturday night, you missed something very special.

The church's "Acoustic Christmas" concert was truly one of the highlights of the holiday season. The soft, warm sounds of the dozen nine-person ensemble playing and singing rarely-heard carols were a sweet counterpoint to the harsher sounds and commercialism of the season.

Saturday night's program included a few familiar carols that members of the audience were invited to sing along to, but the bulk of the performance featured rarely-heard carols from various periods of Christian history.

The program included such diverse songs as Patapan, a French carol written in the 1600s and said to be a precursor of the modern day Little Drummer Boy; O Come, O Come Emmanuel, a melody from the 12th century; Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming, a carol of German origin from the late 16th century and the old spiritual Poor Little Jesus.

"This has just been a really neat part of our Advent  Christmas tradition over the last five years at Crossroads," Rev. Andrew Vander Maas, senior pastor at the church, said in introducing the program. "We are excited, as always, to share it with the community and to share these wonderful musicians with the community as well." 

It was the fifth annual Acoustic Christmas concert at the church. Church members Kristin and Brendan Tanner brought the idea to Crossroads after they participated in a similar concert at their church when they lived in Atlanta. 

"My husband and I really enjoyed the music there and we wanted to bring it here," Kristin Tanner said. 

Tanner said she and her husband had no trouble finding musical church members willing to perform.

"We had all done music growing up in high school and college and some of us do music in the community as well," she said.  

The Tanners and some other group members perform in small ensembles at community fairs and festivals at other times of the year. They also helped kickstart in the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.

"We're amateurs but we really enjoy any opportunity that arises," she said.

The songs in the Christmas program are "a mix of acoustic songs we really enjoy doing together and hope bring the community in," she said. "That's really the purpose—to bring the community in."

More than 100 people attended the concert at the church. Rev. Mark Ryan, assistant pastor of the church, said after the performance he was pleased with the turnout.

"Of the concert attendees, the vast majority were local to and even residents of Maplewood, and somewhere between 25 and 33 percent were guests not formerly associated with Crossroads," he said.

Many concert-goers stayed for the reception after the program.

"All seemed to enjoy the opportunity to reflect on the music and simply enjoy each other's company," Ryan said. 

In addition to Brendan Tanner (vocals, guitar and percussion) and Kristin Tanner (vocals and trumpet), the ensemble included Rick Whitlock (djembe), Larry Goodman (vocals, whistles, recorder and flute), Jane Belz (cello), Billy Boyce (mandolin and vocals), Melynda Boyce (vocals), Courtney Dey (vocals), and Luke Smith (guitar and vocals). 

"The Tanners are good musicians and enthusiastic about their faith, which makes performing with them a treat," Dey said after the program. "This is the fourth year I have been a part of our Christmas concert at Crossroads, and it's fun to see growth as well as real enjoyment of a tradition."

The 2011 concert date hasn't been announced yet but keep an eye out for it. You won't want to miss it next year.

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