Our guest artists always seem overwhelmed at first by the size of the Conference Center. Empty, the Conference Center seems enormous, but full of people, it can be downright frightening! Guest Artist John Rhys-Davies could not contain his enthusiasm for performing in such a grand theater. Each night he came out to banter with the audience and struggled to find new and exultant words of praise for such a space and such wonderful performers in the concert. He especially wondered how anyone could follow the stunning performance of organist Rick Elliott who played "The Flight of the Bumble Bee" with his feet! But John Rhys-Davies got to do one of the most wonderful surprises of the evening. While he was telling the story behind the story of Charles Dickens' "The Christmas Carol," he flew! He and the actor portraying Charles Dickens were rigged to fly out and over the enormous Conference Center audience! Other surprises included beautiful dancing, extraordinary bell-ringing, adventurous orchestrations, fabulous singing, London FOG, and SNOW falling from the sky INSIDE the Conference Center.
Deborah Voight also was visibly moved by her experience singing with the choir. She told us time and again how much she enjoyed being with us. But then when we said goodbye by singing "God Be With You 'til We Meet Again," her eyes welled up with tears and she began sobbing. Many of us also sobbed through the singing. Sometimes the Spirit is so strong that even tough "performer's" hearts are softened. We love to see the Spirit work in the hearts of our Guest Artists. We see it time and time again.
But without a doubt the most magical surprise of the concert was Rick Elliott's organ performance. He did his own arrangement of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with passages of great Russian orchestral works from Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky and others in the mix. The pivotal point, of course, was when he played "The Flight of the Bumble Bee" on the pedals with his feet. It brought the audience to a standing ovation with thunderous applause and whistles of admiration!
The entire evening was filled with magical surprises! This concert will be a wonderful PBS Special for next Christmas (2014). Be sure not to miss it!