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Youthful voices ready to entertain with ‘Christmas in Covington’

The Oxford Singing Children, shown here at the recent Covington Lighting of the Courthouse, along with the Oxford Youth Singers, will present “Christmas in Covington” at Covington First United Methodist Church on Dec. 6 and 7. (Special Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith)

The Oxford Singing Children, shown here at the recent Covington Lighting of the Courthouse, along with the Oxford Youth Singers, will present “Christmas in Covington” at Covington First United Methodist Church on Dec. 6 and 7. (Special Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith)

As far as Yuletide traditions go in Newton County, is there anything that sounds better than young voices singing beloved Christmas songs?

For the past decade, one of the premier holiday events in the community has been “Christmas in Covington,” featuring the Oxford Singing Children and the Oxford Youth Singers, presented by the Arts Association in Newton County. To offer evidence of the popularity of these concerts, for several years before it became “Christmas in Covington,” the recitals were held at Oxford’s Old Church.

This year, the OSC (grades 4 to 7) and the OYS (grades 8 to 12) will do their Christmas best three times at Covington First United Methodist Church — at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6 and at 4 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7.

Musical director Mary Lynn Luke will also be celebrating her 10th year of working with the ensembles, but she’s taking the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” posture when it comes to programming.

“I’m a traditionalist,” Luke said. “I like for Christmas to sound Christmassy. But we’re going to do some things I think are pretty cool.”

The 70-voice OSC – which has been in existence for 22 years — is set to sing “Christmas Time is Here” from the venerable “Charlie Brown Christmas” and is also doing a medley of what Luke called “fun Christmas songs,” including “Winter Wonderland,” “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Luke added that the OSC will perform a couple of non-Christmas songs as a sort of warm-up for its January “appreciation” concert at the First Presbyterian Church.

“Every year we sing at the Presbyterian Church to thank them for letting us use their facilities for rehearsals,” she said. “We switch off every year – the older kids did it this year so the Oxford Singing Children will do it in January. They’re not exactly Christmas songs but they are very nice pieces.”

The 70-voice OYS – which was established in 2000 — will take on a couple of demanding selections, including Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” performed in Latin, and thanks to the tutelage of a couple of German exchange students, the group will sing “Silent Night” in German.

“They’ve been tutoring us on our pronunciations,” Luke said. “They get slightly amused at our Southern pronunciation of ‘Deutsch.’ We specifically chose that song because we knew we’d have them in our group and it’s been fun. It’s a nice little connection with them and the kids who have been in the group year after year have enjoyed getting to know (the exchange students) and turning the spotlight on them a little bit.”

The ensemble will also do their best impression of an orchestra by singing the (wordless) “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcracker.”

“It’s a very intriguing arrangement,” Luke said.

Also in the program will be “The 12 Days After Christmas,” which Luke promises has “an interesting conclusion.”

“A little bit of humor is perfect at this time of year,” she said. “It’s fun to try to find something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. We always want to do things we’ve done before but we also like to do something new to keep it fresh for the kids.”

As has also become a tradition, the combined choirs will close out the concert with “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and Luke said there will be several sing-alongs for the crowd to join in on.

From 6:30 to 7 p.m., there will also be more than a dozen carolers dressed in Dickens-era garb singing on the front steps of the church as patrons enter the performance venue.

After a short break, the two choirs will begin rehearsals in early 2014 for their spring musical, “Oliver!” which will feature the combined ensembles. The spring musical will be stage in March.

Tickets for “Christmas in Covington” are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for students and can be obtained by calling 770-786-8188 or by visiting www.newtoncountyarts.org.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens. To contact him, email cstarrs90@hotmail.com.