Monday, December 10, 2007

Living Christmas Tree: Talk of the town

If you were wondering where all of Bradenton disappeared to last Saturday night, a good many of them were at the opening performance of the 25th annual Living Christmas Tree at First Church of the Nazarene.

At least 1,000 people, if not more, packed the pews of the Bradenton church to see this enlightening holiday production.Extra seats had to be pulled out for the occasion. I was extremely lucky to get an aisle seat (a chair sitting next to a pew) in a good section about 15 minutes prior to the show. I had been advised that if you want to get a really good seat, you must arrive at least an hour early.

Plenty of great local talent was on display for the evening —- from the adorable kids who took the stage in song, to the teens who gave a 1960s and '70s-style tribute to Christmas. The adults didn't disappoint either, capturing the audience with a wonderful vocal cornucopia of hymns and southern gospel Christmas medleys, skits and the lighted Christmas tree.

You can imagine the energy it takes to put on such an exciting production night after night.

During my interviews for a story previewing the Living Christmas Tree, I learned that the 98-member choir stands on wooden platforms in the 30-foot tree for two-thirds of the performance, which can get awful tiring for some. Several church members still remember the time a choir member fainted one year from the exhaustion of standing up so long under the lights. She slipped down into the hollow backside of the tree and was attended to immediately. Since then, a paramedic stands under the tree for each performance —- just in case. There's been no incidents since, though.

As for the delightful music, worship pastor Scott Kelley told the audience he can't take credit for putting it together. He's only been with the church for about two months now, and it takes about a year to develop each new Living Christmas Tree program.

All that hard work really shows in this year's performance.

Performances continue this week: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $7. The church is located at 1616 59th St. in west Bradenton. For more information, call 794-1685.

— January Holmes

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