By Cecily Markland & Allison Beckert
Voices of Christmas to Present Free, Christ-centered Concert at Mesa Arts Center
The 11th annual Voices of Christmas concert features an impressive 130-member choir, 40-member orchestra, along with special guests Clyde Bawden, Michele Baer, The Riggs Sisters and Bella Musica Bell Choir. The concert, now presented with combined support of the Mesa West, Mesa East, Gilbert and Tempe Young Single Adult Stakes (YSA), will, for the first time, be held in the prestigious Mesa Arts Center.
This has been the long-time goal of Ted Sowards, who started the choir with his now-brother in-law, Chris Stapley, hoping to bring Christian carols back to Christmas.
In 2004, they assembled a choir of 16 and performed free concerts in church buildings. By the ninth year, the choir and audience had outgrown any available church buildings. Last year, with volunteers and help from the YSA stakes, Voices of Christmas secured Gilbert High School for its concert.
Now, Ted says, staging the concert at Mesa Arts Center is the result of “a weary, wonderful journey” and a tribute to the estimated 600 volunteers and 7,000 attendees who have supported past concerts.
“It’s humbling to see so many people get involved over the years, and we hope it has not only improved their Christ-filled season but who they are all together,” Ted says.
“The intent of Voices of Christmas has always been to bring together the best talent available and to keep it free so, if you were rich or poor, educated or not, spiritual or investigating, everyone could have an equal chance to feel the real spirit of Christ.”
This has been a challenge, Ted admits, particularly with the size venue required and their high standards of quality and entertainment value.
“This concert is so much more than just a choir singing,” Ted says. “There’s a full orchestra and jumbo screens with live video, video clips featuring the Mesa Temple Lights and Easter Pageant, animated stories, acting and dancing—all made possible by people coming together to make this gift happen.”
“Wrangling a large choir and orchestra of young adult volunteers, all with hectic schedules, is a task unto itself, but many jump at the chance to use their talents in this way. The dedication of these musicians amounts to a beautiful and heart-stirring evening of sincere song and testimony.”
Ted hopes to see Voices of Christmas continue to grow. “We have worked our way up from ward level to stake level to regional level, hoping someday this joins the ranks of the other annual Valleywide Church events,” Ted says. Like the Easter Pageant and Mesa Temple Christmas Lights, he hopes Voices of Christmas can help “fill the need to have more of a focus on Christ in our community. In a world that is leaving religion behind more and more, we need to provide many opportunities for people to grow closer to Christ and to feel of the Spirit deeper in their lives.”
The 11th annual Voices of Christmas concert starts at 7 p.m. December 18 at the Mesa Arts Center and is free to the public. Visit www.azlds.com for more information.