A local church will ring in the Christmas holidays with their own renditions of classic songs later this week.
Oak Cliff Baptist Church will open its doors on three separate occasions so the community can partake in its annual Keyboards at Christmas presentation. These include Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
Kent Sweatman, the pastor of Oak Cliff Baptist Church, said he had the idea of Keyboards at Christmas years ago, although it was not original to him. He had been to another church that had a program with the same name, but it was very different from what Oak Cliff puts on.
"... It was beautiful," Sweatman said. "I came to this church in 2005, and learned fairly quickly that Oak Cliff has more accomplished keyboard artists than most churches, especially most small churches, and I felt like we needed to use them, so I suggested to Lyndel that we do a Keyboards at Christmas Christmas program. ..."
The first Keyboards at Christmas at Oak Cliff Baptist Church took place in 2006.
The director of Keyboards at Christmas is Lyndel Hobbs, who is also the associate pastor and minister of music at Oak Cliff. Hobbs said the presentation will feature 15 pieces, including such festive staples as "Joy to the World," "Silent Night," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The bulk of this year's presentation is made up of four piano arrangements. There are also a couple of choir pieces that are accompanied by multiple pianos.
"We start with an arrangement of 'O, Come All Ye Faithful,' that has ... seven pianists on the four pianos, so there are two on each piano, one piano only has one player, and the organ, and the congregation will get to sing 'O, Come All Ye Faithful' with us," Hobbs said. "It's beautiful. It's amazing how it fills up the auditorium with sound."
A total of 21 pianists will participate in this year's presentation, Hobbs said. This includes 19 pianists from within the church and two special guests, Rosilee Walker Russell and Gini Law. The choir will feature over 50 people.
Hobbs said some of the choir pieces are carols while others are more modern choral works. The piano pieces, however, are all familiar carols.
"... There's only two (pieces) that have ... multiple pianos and choir," Hobbs said. "There's ... four that have just piano, flute, keyboard and choir with them, but then the majority of the pieces are multiple pianos. In this case, all of them are four piano pieces arranged at the skill level of the players, and since we have some very talented players, those people are playing things that stretch them, pretty challenging for them."
Hobbs said he begins preparing for the presentation in July each year. The pianists usually receive their music in September, and the choir usually starts its preparation at the end of that month.
"We started in October, the second week of October I believe it was, rehearsing some of the pieces every week, ..." Hobbs said. "Of course, the choir's rehearsing every week starting in the end of September, and then, ... the better pianists have to set separate rehearsals when they get together, but they've been started since October. It takes a lot of preparation."
A dress rehearsal for Keyboards at Christmas took place Sunday.
Sweatman said the church's intent is for Keyboards at Christmas to be a worship service first and foremost, as well as a gift to the community at Christmas.
"... We will not charge for admission because ... you don't charge for the gospel," Sweatman said. "You don't charge for worship, and we seek to make it a worshipful experience for everyone, but not just a concert. We don't call it a concert. We don't call it a performance. We call it a worship service."
Sweatman recommends those wanting a seat at one of the presentations to come an hour early due to admission being free of charge and there being no tickets.