If the short bridge between hurricane and holiday season has made it difficult for you to get into the spirit, you should have been at the Reichhold Center on Saturday evening for the annual UVI Christmas Concert.
As the Concert Band, Concert Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Steelpan Ensemble, Kirwan Elementary School choir and numerous other cast members presented their renditions of more than 30 of our favorite holiday classics, it took a real Scrooge not to get caught up in the magic of the season.
In spite of competing activities on the island and very little publicity, the house was full. This concert has obviously become a favorite, and as the rain began to pour, few people headed for the exit. They were willing to huddle together under the overhang, up in the rafters and clinging to the walls to enjoy a very long concert. (It's great that every one of my favorites is included, but maybe we could skip the third and fourth verses and repeats and shorten the concert just a little for the sake of the children and old ladies next year.)
The characters don't really change much from year to year. Community members supplement the UVI music students, and alumni continue to participate. Vashti Hooker, Lorna Freeman and Malvern Gumbs, with their incredible vocal instruments, were the audience favorites. It is a joy to watch them develop their talent and presentation.
The Music Area faculty members who direct the UVI groups are to be congratulated. Austin Venzen in his white top hat was the star of the show. Lorna Young-Wright not only directed the choir and accompanied but also sang a solo. Martin Lamkin has made the Jazz Ensemble the most familiar of the ensembles with concerts throughout the year. The newest component is the Steelpan Ensemble directed by Aben Marrero. Faculty member Gene Emanuel as narrator and Lawrence Benjamin Sr. singing "White Christmas" and dancing with "Beauty" as "the Beast" were excellent as always.
Everyone who participated is to be congratulated for a very high quality presentation. The choir and orchestra were in position as the audience began to fill the seats, and that professional and disciplined conduct continued throughout the concert. They were all so beautiful — the women in identical white dresses, the men in stylish high-collared white jackets, and all on the stage at one time this year. (The usual trooping in and out of the performers was not missed!)
The stage design by Patsy Breunlin with poinsettias, a small tree and a red sleigh was very nice and doubtless would be even more impressive if we could see her limited budget. The draping on the side of the stage was distracting, though. The back screen was poorly used. Maybe it does not have to be used for every Reichhold performance; one very special full-screen picture for the whole concert might have been more effective.
The upgrades in the Reichhold sound and lighting systems are so fine we gladly forget the old days when the microphones didn't always work or the wind made sounds that injured eardrums. My favorite "technical" effect was a young man scooping shredded styrofoam out of a barrel and sending it wafting down over the performers. At one point during the concert the wind was strong enough to cause swirling drifts onstage.
Audience participation in a spirited medley of Christmas carols and the concert finale, a moving rendition of "Let There Be Peace on Earth," sent everyone home in a great mood for the holiday season (sucking on the complimentary candy canes).


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