75th Anniversary Christmas Cantata

Holy Cross has been blessed with many talented singers and musicians over its 75 year history.

Rudy Scharlach was the first pianist/organist/choir director and held that position for 40 years. He was a dedicated organist and a true inspiration. When he was not practicing his church music, he used to play the most interesting music that sounded like it should be played at the circus. Jennifer (Kehn) Massicotte once asked him how he kept track of the many verses that he had to play for the hymns. He told her that he moved match sticks one by one to the left. lt was not too clear if he was joking but Jennifer came to realize that he was!

ln the early 80s as Rudy began to slowly reduce his duties, Jennifer Massicotte continued his musical legacy as choir director and recruited her former piano student Heather (Herz) Schein as the church choir accompanist. Now as Musical Director, Jennifer is constantly amazed by the musically talented people with whom the Lord has blessed Holy Cross.

Today we will re-visit by decade the anthems that were an important part of our former Advent and Christmas celebrations.

The 50's, 60's. 70's (The Rudy Years)

"Winds Through the Olive Trees" -This anthem was written in 1957. Many longtime choir members have fond memories of Gerry Wentlaff adding "wind sounds" during rehearsals. Sometimes one would even hear bird sounds from Gerry's lips.

"There Were Shepherds" - This was a Christmas staple with Ron Johnson's beautiful tenor voice singing the angel's message "Fear not, fear not for behold I bring you good tidings...." in the middle of the anthem. Ron continued to sing this solo into the 1980's.

"And the Glory of the Lord" - As the choir became more accomplished this anthem by Handel was chosen. lt uses the words of lsaiah 40:5 and weaves the phrases together in an intricate, contrapuntal style. Rudy added this complex anthem to the choir repertoire.

"O Holy Night" - This anthem became the much-anticipated Christmas Eve finale. The solo and choir arrangement that Rudy purchased initially had Norma Blake as soloist and then in later years Joyce Kehn took over the solo duties. Today we are using a hymn arrangement so that we can all sing it.

The 80's

This decade ushered in the era of presenting contemporary Christmas cantatas. The first one ("Joy to the World" Nov. 29, 1981) was organized by Don Bode and conducted by Jennifer lVlassicotte and accompanied by Audrey Bloch (organ), Heather Herz (piano) . With the cantata format being well-received by the congregation, Jennifer was prompted to organize several cantatas over the years. Some cantatas required a full orchestra to be hired, which was a very exciting experience for the choir and congregation.

The 90's

ln the 1990's accompaniment CD's became all the rage for cantatas. This made it possible for the choir to present one of the cantatas in Hanover at First St. Matthew's Lutheran Church.

"A Voice Cries Out, 'Prepare the Way of the Lord" - This anthem is based on lsaiah 40:1,3-5,7-14. lt has become a choir favourite with Claude Massicotte's strong tenor voice starting the anthem. lt has a beautiful piano accompaniment and together with the choir implores the congregation to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

"Mary Did You Know" - The 90's were marked by the inclusion of more contemporary anthems. This and others quickly became choir and congregation favourites.

The 2000's

"Rejoice with exceeding Great Joy" - This anthem is from the cantata "Noel - Night of Everlasting Love" presented here in 2008 and 2015. This song is a fun and exuberant medley about the wise men featuring many familiar songs.

"Where's the Line to See Jesus" - This thought provoking song was first inserted into a cantata sung in 2018 with Michelle Tracz as soloist along with a Junior Choir directed by Ashley Black. The commercialization of Christmas is the backdrop to this contemporary song where a child at the shopping mall asks the probing question "Where's the line to see Jesus?"

"Bethlehem" - This song is from the 2018 cantata "Then Came the Light". This closing anthem encapsulates our faith using the recurring phrase "l believe".

"Go Tell lt Where I Send Thee" - This is the only brand new anthem. lt was chosen so that the choir director for Holy Cross's 100th anniversary would have one "new" old anthem that could be sung from our 75th Anniversary Celebration.