This December marks the 50th year that choirs, community members and musicians from Agassiz and Harrison have come together to tell the Christmas story. Hosted by the Agassiz Harrison Ministerial Association, the 50th annual Community Carol Festival unites over 100 voices to celebrate the story behind the Christmas season.
This year, recently retired Agassiz Christian School principal John Zuidhof will conduct the approximately 50-person mass choir.
“I’ve always been involved in school and music and community,” he says. “I think just the fact that there’s a great cross-section of people from various churches, from the community, and they all come together for this express purpose. I think it’s a wonderful time to be able to come together for that.”
Some of the mass choir’s scheduled songs include the African Alleluia and the Canadian Huron Carol, to honour the country’s 150th birthday. School choirs and the Agassiz Elementary Secondary School’s band will also join in on the festivities.
“The one we do with the children’s choir is called Peace on Earth,” Zuidhof says. “It’s really neat to have that combination of the adult choir plus this year [the] two children’s school choirs.”
“That’s always a highlight of the program,” he adds.
The final performance is always Silent Night, and as per tradition, the audience is encouraged to join the choirs in singing the well-loved carol.
Organizer Brian Harding has been involved with the Carol Festival for about 35 years. He says initially it was held in local churches until it became too big and had to be moved to the Agricultural Hall.
“We still draw heavily on the churches in town for singers but it’s expanded beyond churches so the community members also join in to sing the carols,” he says, adding that in past years Sts’ailes and Seabird Island schools participated as well.
“It’s magical,” he says. “There aren’t too many events in this town that go 50 years in a row.”
The event has a Christian emphasis, Harding adds, but is enjoyable for everybody. “They are Christmas carols and we aim at the nativity story,” he says. “But it’s not overbearing if not a person of faith.”
The Community Choir Festival is open to the public and will be held Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Agricultural Hall in Agassiz. Donations for the Agassiz Harrison Community Services’ food bank will be accepted at the event.