Toward the end of the Thursday's rehearsal at the Community of Christ Auditorium, Christine Tatum recalled her first experience with the Mayor's Christmas Concert as a teacher in the Independence School District.
“I remember they asked how many had done the Mayor's Christmas Concert in fourth grade, and it was awesome to see about half the hands went up,” Tatum told about 1,000 fourth graders gathered in the balcony of the expansive facility that will host the 33rd annual concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. “When you go home tonight, ask your parents if they sang in this.
“That's pretty amazing, and heartwarming,” Tatum, the music teacher at Little Blue Elementary who is in her seventh year with the district, said after the rehearsal. “Hearing them sing, that was an awesome experience, like it was with surround sound.”
The concert benefits the Community Services League and is sponsored by Centerpoint Medical Center. Free-will donations will be accepted.
In addition to the fourth graders from ISD and Nativity of Mary Elementary, also scheduled to perform are Young MAIster Singers (children from the Music/Arts Institute), the Truman High School Concert Choir and the Spirit of Independence Band. Longtime radio personality Dick Wilson will serve as emcee.
The two songs Tatum chose for the students are “Winter Fantasy” and “Beautiful Christmas,” the former of which incorporates “Jingle Bells” and the latter of which has a sweet melody and some harmony lines. The traditional final song, of course, is the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's “Messiah.”
“I tried to go with a fun one – it has the ‘Jingle Bells’ and is upbeat – then slow it down in between,” Tatum said. “It's beautiful and goes along with the community, with the lyrics.”
Perhaps the highlight during rehearsal for the students is when organist Kevin Kissinger gives a quick tutorial and demonstration of the Auditorium's massive organ, which includes more than 6,000 pipes. When he played a rollicking song to demonstrate the variety of keys, several students started dancing at their seats.
Thursday's rehearsal marks the one time all the students sing together before the concert, so naturally there is plenty of coordination among the elementary music teachers to have uniform practices with their own students beforehand.
“Everybody helps in this; it's not a one-person thing,” Tatum said. “We work closely as a department; we talk about every detail, like tempos, and make recordings.
“I remember the rehearsal during my first year and thinking. 'How does it all come together?' But it does.”