‘Christmas Choral Celebration’ is diocese’s gift to community

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The Diocese of Nashville’s annual Christmas concert, “The Gift of The Child: A Christmas Choral Celebration,” will be a new format featuring a combination of music, Scripture readings, and images.

“The program is a musical meditation, and along with the music there’s art that will be projected so the audience can be immersed in beautiful sacred music and art and the word of God,” said Sister Rosemary Esseff, OP, who will conduct the concert, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Christ the King Church.

The format is the same as Christmas concerts Sister Rosemary conducted while earning her master’s degree and pontifical license in composition from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome.

“They were so effective. They were so prayerful,” Sister Rosemary said of the Rome concerts. “It was a gift to the community so they could take away a prayerfulness about the coming of Christ at Christmas.”

The program will include four sets of music, featuring a variety of musical styles, Sister Rosemary said. Between the first and second sets will be an Old Testament reading, and between the second and third sets will be a New Testament reading. Bishop J. Mark Spalding will offer a reflection after the third set, and the fourth set will conclude the program.

Each of the sets of music will include the proper Communion antiphons for the Sundays of Advent in a Gregorian chant composed by Sister Rosemary. She also did the arrangements for all the music.

“I’ve been doing this pretty much all of my life,” said Sister Rosemary, who earned a master’s degree in choral directing from the Catholic University of America before she entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation. “I have this fire in my heart to revive beautiful sacred songs.”

“Since the Lord asked me to use this gift for the good of the community and the good of the Church, I just feel really called to let these gifts be at the service of the Church in whatever ways the Lord calls me,” she added.

Throughout the program, photographs and images from churches in the diocese will be projected onto the wall at Christ the King behind the choir and orchestra using a state-of-the-art laser projector.

The choir will be a women’s choir composed of singers from the schola of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, members of the choir at St. Cecilia Academy where Sister Rosemary teaches, and other local singers from Nashville and Belmont University.

Accompanying the choir will be an orchestra made up of members of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

The concert is free, but organizers are asking people to RSVP at christmasconcert.org, said Bill Staley, the director of outreach and engagement for the diocese. 

“The concert is open to everyone,” Staley said. “It’s the gift of the diocese to the Nashville community. All people of all faiths are welcome.”

The concert will follow the regular 6 p.m. Mass at Christ the King for people who are interested in attending, although the Mass is not part of the event, Staley said. 

KGV Studios will produce a video of the concert, and Declan Weir Productions, owned by a parishioner at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Franklin, will provide the lighting.

“This will all be recorded” and the diocese has purchased time on WZTV Fox 17 to broadcast the recordings of the concert, Staley said. The video of the concert will also be available on demand at christmasconcert.org after Dec. 10.

The recordings will make the concert accessible to people who are unable to attend the live performance, Staley said.

“Our hope is beyond the live event,” Staley said, “that we are reaching people with the beauty, truth, and goodness of our faith.”

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