Your Still Christmas Soundtrack

By December 4, 2020

As you may remember, starting last May our own Peggy Graff, organista extraordinaire and Associate Director of Music and Worship Arts, invited some of the most talented musicians in our First Church family to join her in creating thematic music to inspire, uplift, and offer a moment of respite and reflection each day in May via “Hymn a Day May,” throughout June with “June Tunes,” during July with “July Lullabies” and throughout the hottest days of summer with August’s “Dog Days Duets.” (You can still access those wonderful compilations of Peggy and Friends on our home page, or via SoundCloud, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and YouTube.)

And now, with the 2020 Holiday Season in full swing, Peggy Graff and Friends have returned with a full hour of Christmas Music for your listening pleasure at home, on the road, as you exercise, wrap gifts, dine in with your family, or any other time you need to bring a bit of musical joy into your Still Christmas Advent Season.

The Idea Emerges and Takes Shape

Peggy tells us that this came about at the Worship Planning Team’s request in an early Advent planning meeting in early September. When asked to organize an Advent recording similar to the “Hymn-A-Day May,” “June Tunes,” “July Lullabies,” and “Dog-Day Duets” recording projects done this past summer, Peggy says she was excited at the prospect and immediately agreed and went to work wrangling musicians for the project. “I felt so honored to do this for our church as a music offering for the Advent season,” she adds. “The team originally thought this could be presented as a video; but after some discussion with the Communications Team, we decided on a playlist of audio recordings with the static image of our Still Christmas Advent graphic — and it turned out to be the best approach.” The group agreed that the static visual image serves as both a reminder of our 2020 Advent theme and its message as well as allowing the listener to concentrate more fully on the auditory experience of the music without the distraction of visual media.

A Massive Collaboration

To bring this project together, Peggy says that she first listed all talent musicians we are fortunate to have at First Church and other music friends who have performed at our church, including some who are associated with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, DFW Brass, and others. “I invited each one to collaborate with me for this recording project — and they all responded favorably to the opportunity!” she relates, radiating her excitement over this wonderful pool of talent to work with.

Over about a period of week, Peggy says that she spent perusing sacred and secular Christmas instrumental and vocal arrangements, and then created a Google sheet of good possibilities. She then purchased arrangements for the singers and instrumentalists from musicnotes.com, JW Pepper, and other sheet music companies. She based her music repertoire selections on her own intimate knowledge of each performing artist/ensemble and their music abilities; and for the most part, she adds, the musicians really enjoyed them. Working closely with the communications team, Peggy then scheduled rehearsal times, recording times, and at last the project was underway.

Our own Hans Grim, a professional musician who serves as Choral Union Section Leader, DC Music Leader, and FUMCFW Webmaster/Data Manager (yes, all that and more!) served as recording engineer for this project. “In addition to Hans’ musical expertise, he was extremely patient, encouraging, and understanding to everyone,” Peggy relates,” especially when several takes (sometimes more) were needed to get a recording ‘as perfect as it can humanly get.’”

Peggy adds that Hans then spent a generous number of days and hours to get the 25 recordings edited with his magic touch; then together they created a program order for the recordings and the project was published on our FUMCFW website on Thanksgiving Day to launch the season a little early for those who typically (and especially this year!) want to decorate for Christmas over the Thanksgiving break. Beaming at the result of all this effort by so many, Peggy emphasizes, “We so greatly appreciate Hans, his gifts, his good heart, and his time!”

A Variety of Music for All

From Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” to music from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to favorite carols and other sacred and secular holiday classics, the Still Christmas collection compiled and created by Peggy and Friends brings forth a broad variety of music from different music styles and genres to create maximum appeal, joy, and impact for listeners of all ages. “Music has boundless power to inspire, to cause us to remember, to uplift, to bring hope, to reduce stress, and to ease pain,” Peggy explains. “Music can mentally transport you to places you’ve never been, or back to familiar and comforting places you want to revisit again and again. During this rather challenging pandemic period of time, it is my hope that this music will do all that for its listeners and more; and especially to help us remember that it is Still Christmas, no matter what else is going on this year in our world. Enjoy!”

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