One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the Christmas music — favorite carols, and other offerings that are more unique. This year’s concert at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury definitely falls in the latter category. Titled “An English Village Christmas,” music director Bill Peek has put together quite a program for Sunday, Dec. 22, at 3 pm at the church. I caught up with him last Sunday in the late afternoon, between holiday concerts he was performing in New Jersey.
“It’s a lovely program of music that’s not all that frequently heard,” Peek said. “The first half are works of English Baroque — Thomas Tomkins’ ‘Magnificat’ and Maurice Greene’s ‘Behold I Bring You Glad Tidings.’ He was a contemporary of Handel, and it is almost never performed. I had a hard time tracking down a score for that one.”
Originally a summer organist at Union Chapel, Peek has been music director at the West Tisbury church for two years. I asked him how he came up with the unique program.
“I think, for Tomkins and Greene, it’s such wonderful, timeless music, and it all speaks so beautifully to the Christmas season,” Peek said. “We go to an awful lot of concerts where we hear the same things year after year.”
He said he’s happy to have pieces that suit the voices of baritone David Behnke and soprano Molly Conole so well. I commented on what great musical talent we have on the Island, and he said, “And we have many of them in our choir.” I have a feeling that concert’s going to be extraordinary, and I hope you check it out.
I was singing Christmas carols myself last Sunday. I went to the Candlelight Service of Joy, Music, and Miracles at the Unitarian Universalist Society with my dear neighbor, Nancy Wood. The whole evening hit that sweet spot between holiday greens and singing along with talented musicians. It was a bonus to hear Siren Mayhew sing “O Holy Night.” There were readings applicable to the theme of miracles, and the Rev. Bill Clark managed to nearly bring me to tears when he asked everyone to lift up the small white candles we were holding in the darkened chapel. “Look around,” he said. “Don’t let anyone put out your light.” He talked about the light that we all have shining within us, and everyone sang “Silent Night” together, me using my typical “sing louder, that makes it better” theory. It was a lovely night, and it made me think about how wonderful it is to sing those beautiful songs with a group of friends and neighbors. I hope everyone has a blessed season, and is ready to face the New Year, healthy and happy and anticipating all it has to bring us.
We’ve got a lot of happenings coming up at our places of worship, and here is a sampling:
Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven
Hanukkah Celebration, Sunday, Dec. 22, 4 to 6:30 pm.
First Congregational Church, West Tisbury
Christmas Pageant at the Ag Hall, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 5 pm
Christmas eve candlelight service, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 10 pm
Annual Caroling at Windemere, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 3 pm
Vineyard Assembly of God, Vineyard Haven
Christmas at Home! — Natal em Casa! Tuesday, Dec. 24, 6 pm
American and Brazilian Christmas Eve Service
Serviço de véspera de Natal americano e brasileiro
Grace Episcopal Church, Vineyard Haven
Community Sing: Handel’s “Messiah,” Old Whaling Church, Thursday, Dec. 19, 6 pm
Blue Christmas Service, Saturday, Dec. 21, 10 am
Festive Holy Eucharist, Christmas eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 5 pm; Traditional Carols, 8:30 pm; Holy Eucharist, 9 pm
Holy Eucharist, Christmas day, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 9 am
Holy Eucharist, Sunday, Dec. 29, 8 am; Lessons and Carols, 10 am
Unitarian Universalist Society of M.V., Vineyard Haven
Community of Unitarian Universalist Pagans gather to welcome the Winter Solstice with guest speaker Rebecca Gilbert and others, Sunday, Dec. 22, 11 am
Chilmark Community Church, United Methodist
Service of Lessons and Carols and Candles, highlighted by the golden harp played by Sandra Bittemann Atwood. Tuesday, Dec. 24, 5 pm. All ages welcome.
Federated Church, Edgartown
Christmas eve service featuring a children and youth pageant, “The Mysterious Animal: Christmas in the Stable,” music by the Federated Church Choir, under the direction of Peter R. Boak, minister of music, Christmas eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 4 pm
Christmas eve candlelight service featuring traditional lessons and carols, 9 pm
Trinity United Methodist Church at the Campground, Oak Bluffs
Advent and Christmas season Sunday worship, 10 am
Christmas eve service, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 7 pm
Advent Tai chi and Taizé every Wednesday and Thursday, 3 to 4:30 pm
Good Shepherd Parish
Christmas eve Mass, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 4 pm and 5:30 pm, St. Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven
Christmas day Mass, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 10 am, St. Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven.
Christmas day Brazilian Community Mass, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 11:30 am, St. Augustine’s Church, Vineyard Haven
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Edgartown
Christmas eve family service (organ only), Tuesday, Dec. 24, 4 pm
Choral Christmas eve service (organ and choir), Tuesday, Dec. 24, 9:45 pm
Christmas Day Service (without music), Wednesday, Dec. 25, 9 am.
Faith Community Church, Oak Bluffs
Live Nativity, Saturday, Dec. 21, 6:30 pm
Free admission, refreshments to follow.