For only the second time, the Abilene Christian University Gospel Choir will perform.
And for the first time, the 15-member multicultural group will sing at the Macedonian Baptist Church.
Wednesday night’s performance is called “The Christmas Story” and, according to director Samuel Cook, it will incorporate non-traditional gospel songs into the season of Christ’s birth.
Cook, who will be a tenor soloist in “Messiah” this weekend and is an assistant professor of voice at ACU, said the idea was to bring more “reality” to the Christmas story. More often than not, the story is presented as “sweet and cute”, with the baby lying in a manger, he says.
Wednesday night’s focus will be on King Herod and the Three Wise Men, whom Herod hopes will find his future king as they travel far and wide and share his location so Herod can pay homage to him. In reality, Herod wanted to kill the threat to his throne.
The music provides “lots of metaphors” that tie this struggle to the struggles people have faced in the centuries since, Cook said.
Songs include “We Come This Far by Faith”, which Cook says is normally performed quite slowly. The ACU band’s version will be a “more rhythmic version that will rock the house,” he said.
“O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain”, hymns appropriate for the season and familiar to all, will also be performed, as well as “Jesus Be a Fence Around Me”, made famous by Fred Hammond.
Cook said this song relates to the protection sought both for the Magi, who visit the manger but leave without seeing Herod again, and for the infant Jesus and his parents.
Interspersed with music, meditations will be given by the Reverend Matthew Lubin, pastor of Macedonia, and Ryan Bowman, director of multicultural initiatives at ACU.
Lubin “will share reflections that interpret history through the songs,” Cook said.
The seven-song presentation will be both a cappella and with a jazz band that includes pianist Henry Smith, who has performed with George Benson and others.
“It’s not just traditional Church of Christ (singing), it’s with a band,” Cook said.
The ACU Gospel Choir was formed in 2019, before the racial upheaval of 2020. But the choir fell silent during COVID-19.
“This is only the second time we’ve held a concert,” said Cook, who has performed on Abilene Philharmonic programs several times.
While “everyone is invited,” Cook said, it’s intentional that he’ll be featured at a church 1.5 miles from the ACU campus.
On Sunday, the ACU presented Vespers in a historically white First Baptist Church, this presentation takes place in a historically black church.
“It’s one who goes to another part of our community to serve where the ACU shares the Christmas spirit,” Cook said.
“I think it’s going to be pretty good.”
Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
If you are going to
What: “The Christmas Story”, an account of the birth of Christ through gospel music
Which: Abilene Christian University Gospel Choir
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Or: Macedonian Baptist Church, 608 N. Seventh St.
Admission: Free, and the public is welcome