NEW BETHLEHEM – Singers, accompanists and a new conductor rehearsed for the upcoming 31st annual New Bethlehem area Christmas cantata on Monday evening. Their new director, Bill Young, led them through their next-to-last rehearsal in the sanctuary of the First Church of God, located along Route 861 in Porter Township.
The cantata’s public performances will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec., at 2 p.m. at the church.
Young, a 27-year veteran of the cantata, took over the reins upon the retirement of long-time director Mary Lou Shindledecker after last year’s performance. He has a degree in music education and lives near Curllsville.
“This year, we have 51 singers, an organist, a pianist and a narrator,” Young said. “We are performing ‘Sing Christmas.’”
The work was written by Mary McDonald and Joel Rainey, featuring four separate suites that are traditional Christmas carols reset to original music.
As Young conducted a sound check, cantata regulars filed into the main sanctuary which seats about 300 people. In past years, the main seating area has been filled, with additional audience members finding seats in the 100-seat balcony overlooking the stage.
Despite Young’s jitters over assuming the conductor’s role, his group was well-rehearsed and in fine voice on Monday night. With one more practice slated for Thursday evening, the group should deliver its expected fine performances this weekend.
Young credits his willingness to take over the conductor’s duties to the many years he sang in the cantata under the direction of Shindledecker. Lending their support to the new director are Shindledecker’s daughter, Debbie Green, the pianist, and her son-in-law, David Green, a singer. In addition, many of the singers are veteran participants willing to help out the new leader who came from among their ranks.
Shindledecker was not in attendance for the rehearsal but did bless the choir’s efforts with a batch of homemade fudge.
“There is no admission charge for the performance,” Young said. “We do take up a free-will offering to help cover the costs associated with the cantata, though. People can donate as much as they want.”
Attendees are asked to turn off their cell phones during the performances to avoid disturbing those around them.