The Dallas Examiner
It was a magical performance as more than 300 students combined forces to light up the holiday season at the 23rd annual Christmas Kwanzaa concert on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson convention center Naomi Bruton Theatre stage in Downtown Dallas.
Students from Kimball High School, Life Charter schools, Dunbar, South Oak Cliff and Lincoln High, along with students from Texas College and Charles Rice Elementary and Townview High School band, dazzled the audience with their strong voices and musical performances to a morning of hymns, spirituals, gospel and classical music.
Dr. Michelle Magee, professor of Music and choir director for Texas College in Tyler, coordinated the event while the Black Academy of Arts and Letters hosted it.
Jiles King, chief executive director for TBAAL, said the money raised through ticket sales would go toward many of the schools choral programs.
“The concert is for funding for public schools arts programs,” he said. “In the past, instructors have bought uniforms for their choirs, and have taken them to UIL competitions, and bought sheet music, things that they normally couldn’t do due to their budgets.”
King described the performances as joyous and amazing as several choirs sang together. The performance opened up with students from Charles Rice Elementary singing in harmony to the tune of a few Christmas pieces.
It was considered a melding of all the music for the season.
Songs performed included pieces such as Psalm 117, Rockin’ Jersualem, Christmas Glory Hallelujah, On with the Snow, Feliz Navidad, We Shall Walk in Peace, Battle of Jericho, Sweetly Sleeping, Have Yourself a Merry Christmas, Born to Die, Celebrate the King and I Wish.
Friday morning’s performance was more of a lecture and demonstration while Saturday night’s performance was not.
“During Friday’s performance, students would sing songs and the choirs would bring students up from various colleges and talk about what the music pieces mean through their various directors from the various high schools,” King said. “They would break down the lyrics and some lyrics would be in other languages which the directors would break down and explain its meaning. The students who attended were able to ask questions on how the lyrics of the songs were composed.”
Texas College students also impressed the crowd with a strong and robust program. Texas College also featured a male ensemble that included performances by TJ Miner, DeWayne Hicks, Christian Hicks, Octavian Lewis, Carrenza Johnson and Saul Gates IV.
Magee has been conducting the concert for more than 10 years and is a former Dallas ISD choral director.
“Christmas is a time for us all to come together as a large ensemble to do music that some of the smaller programs may not be able to do during the school year,” she said. “They are able to collaborate with college students and other students.”
She said the conductors get the music a month before and have rigorous practice schedules before the official concert in December.
“It calls on students to be young professionals, to be stronger musicians, and they have to polish the music and are able to socialize with other singers,” she said. “It is so fulfilling to see these students’ hard work pay off and see how happy they are after the performance.”
Magee said another goal for the performers is to understand the context of the songs they are singing.
“We want them to not only understand the theatrical side, but also understand the deeper meaning behind the music,” she said. “They are able to understand the social issues, religious issues and the relevant issues of today because there is a connection with the music they are singing. It grows them musically, intellectually and socially.”
The concert ended with a high energy gospel piece.
Overall, the performances by the various choirs served to remind everyone that the Christmas/Kwanzaa season is a joyous, glorious season to celebrate the gifts that everyone is blessed with.