First United Methodist Church in Whitewater held its annual Christmas cantata on Dec. 9. Soloists included, front from the left, Jennifer Crone, Barb Athas and Ella Willman. (Tom Ganser photo)

By Tom Ganser


On Dec. 9, the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church of Whitewater provided the stage for two performances of the Christmas cantata, “The Heart of Christmas: Embracing the Passion of Those Who Lived the Story.”

The contemporary performance by Pepper Choplin celebrates the Christmas story in a creative, profound way by probing the hearts of those most directly involved in St. Luke’s account of the first Christmas.

Choplin’s composition incorporates different musical styles, from blues and bluegrass to traditional choral.

FUMC chancel choir director Christine Hayes led the chorus that included members of FUMC and LaGrange Methodist Church, along with Whitewater community members and University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student Nathan Roley.

Choir sopranos included Barb Athas, Sally Blackwell, Mary Beth Byrne, Kay Ebert, Cathy Idzikowski, Theresa Jensen, Sarah Johnsen, Carole Scharinger, Becky Smith, Barb Taylor, Charlotte West and Ella Willman.

Singing tenor were James Kleinhans, Jerry Kramer, Sally Neustedter, Nathan Roley and Kim Taylor

The alto singers included Mary Baas, Clara Bastian, Jean Bromley, Grace Crickette, Jennifer Crone, Katie Fortney, Mary Anne Gerlach, Libby McComb, Carol McLernon, Chelli Taylor and Jane Wegner

Offering their bass range voices were Lynn Binnie, Chris Cameron, Dick Dunham, Jake Gerlach, Glenn C. Hayes and Richard Indermuehle.

Soloists were Barb Athas, Jenn Crone, Katy Fortney, Nathan Roley and Ella Willman.

James A. Athas (piano), Joe Athas, (bass) and Jeremy Reutebuch (percussion) accompanied the choir.

The Revs. Phil Blackwell and Susan Bresser served as narrators.

Binnie is a longtime member of the FUMC chancel choir.

“Rehearsing and singing in the choir is a highlight of my week, and that’s especially the case when we present a larger work such as this cantata,” Binnie said. “It’s rewarding to share our music with the congregation and other community members, but as our director Christine Hayes said, ‘The secret is that we enjoy singing so much that the culmination of all the work would be worthwhile for us even without an audience.’”

“A Christmas cantata highlights the music of the season, our phenomenal choir and the amazing gifts of our church musicians,” Bresser said. “It also allows the community to gather in a place that holds the sound well with a choir that is well-prepared to present a message of hope through music.

“We are blessed to have such wonderful direction in FUMC’s choir director, Christine Hayes, and music director Jim Athas, as well as such rich voices of the choir,” Bresser added. “I am inspired by the music, the presentation and the dedication of such a hard-working team of musicians.”


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