Chattanooga Boys Choir Singing Christmas Tree starts second 50 years

Chattanooga Boys Choir Singing Christmas Tree starts second 50 years

December 6th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Chattanooga Boys Choir Singing Christmas Tree Director Vic Oakes says about 70 choir members will be on the tree this year.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

* What: Chattanooga Boys Choir Singing Christmas Tree.

* When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

* When: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

* Admission: $10-$30.

* Phone: 634-2299.

* Website: www.chattanoogaboyschoir.org.

The question usually comes just a few days after the annual Chattanooga Boys Choir Singing Christmas Tree performances, says director Vic Oakes, when volunteers help put up the stand on which the boys sing.

"What are we doing next year?" someone invariably asks, he says.

So the Singing Christmas Tree production, Oakes says, has somewhat of a 365-day cycle.

In 2012, when the organization celebrated its 50th annual production, "as cool as that was and as many people as it brought in," he says, "everything was directed toward that."

This year, as the organization begins its second 50 years of Singing Christmas Trees - two performances are scheduled Saturday at the Tivoli Theatre - its theme of "Peace on Earth" involves several ideas that have been "in the hopper" for a while, Oakes says.

One of those involves the arrangement of the iconic "Little Drummer Boy"/"Peace on Earth" number recorded by Bing Crosby and David Bowie in 1977, five weeks before Crosby's death.

One of the choir members, Oakes says, brought him the 2010 parody of the song and video by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, and that made him want to add the Crosby/Bowie arrangement to this year's songs.

"I showed them the clip [of the song]," he says, "and they could see how timeless it was, how it bridges the generations. We used that as a bit of a launching pad [to the 2013 program]."

The set for the production also reflects the classic living-room setting of the Crosby/Bowie video, the director says.

Among other numbers that relate to the theme, Oakes says, are "Let There Be Peace on Earth," Michael W. Smith's "Christmastime," "Ose Shalom" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

Beyond that, the program includes pieces from various time periods, cultures and holiday traditions. One of those is the opening to Antonio Vivaldi's "Gloria."

"They get into that," Oakes says of the 130-member choir. "They were excited about being presented the music. You never know what's going to capture the excitement and imagination of a 10-year-old kid."

Oakes says he's also excited the choir will be joined for the first time by the Orange Grove Center Chorus, which is led by Monty Parks.

"We've been wanting to do this for a while," he says. "It's a fantastic opportunity for the boys to help use music as a motive to reach out to the entire community. We're thrilled to get to do this."

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Youth Orchestra will be a part of the program for the 11th consecutive year, Oakes says, offering the 14- to 16-year-old members valuable "pit experience" and a "fun time."

Ballet Tennessee also will take part, offering excerpts from a work taught to members by Barry VanCura, the organization's co-founder and executive director who died in January.

"We're thrilled they're back and grateful for them," Oakes says.

He says three of the overall choir's smaller choirs - about 70 people - will be on the tree, with the youngest and oldest choirs adding their voices on several numbers.

George Randall Jr., the 2012 Chattanooga Boys Choir alum of the year, is the program's producer for the first time. A former choir member himself and father to three boys who went through the CBC, he replaces Gene Wilbourn, who was producer for the last 25 years.

He has "done a fantastic job assembling parents, volunteers and others to help assemble the stage and other production elements that will make for a wonderful presentation this year, Oakes says.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.