Free Christmas concert to benefit local food pantries


MOUNT MORRIS – The public is invited to a free community Christmas concert that will celebrate the holidays and support local food pantries.

I Hear the Prophet Callin’, by Pepper Choplin, will be presented Sunday, Dec. 8, at 3 p.m., at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, 308 East Brayton Road in Mount Morris. Since its inception in 2004, the concert has been offered free to the public, with monetary donations given to local charities. Once again, the beneficiaries will be food pantries Loaves and Fish in Mount Morris and Life-Line in Oregon, which have each received approximately $600 each year since 2010.

Musicians from communities throughout northwest Illinois such as Byron, Chana, Davis Junction, Dixon, Forreston, Leaf River, Mount Morris, Oregon, Polo, Shannon and Winnebago, have gathered weekly since mid-October to rehearse for the single annual performance. For many, it’s become a tradition – a way to celebrate the Christmas season while benefitting needy people in local communities. For others, it’s the beginning of a new tradition. Three vocalists are joining the concert for the first time.

This year’s concert will be directed by Jennie Saltzgiver, a Rockford native, with a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from Millikin University. She has performed with several regional musical groups including the Beloit-Janesville Symphony Orchestra, Mendelssohn Chorale, Rockford Summer Concert Band, and the Rock Valley Community Orchestra. Saltzgiver has taught music in and around the Rockford area for 20 years, currently in the South Beloit School District. Saltzgiver and her family live in Byron, where she is the choir director at the United Church in Byron.

The public is encouraged to arrive early for pre-concert performances by a chime choir, directed by last year’s concert director Matt Guschl, and a woodwind quintet, directed by Oregon High School Band director, Andy Eckardt. Katie Moritz, a national hammer dulcimer champion, will play the hammer dulcimer with the orchestra and perform a solo during intermission.

I Hear the Prophet Callin’ opens with the haunting call of the distant prophet, "Prepare the way of the Lord."  The choir responds as the voice of the faithful, "Make straight the way in the desert for our God." Composed in a simple, Appalachian folk style, this musical includes vocal arrangements, narration, and for this performance, a selection of instruments that includes flute, oboe, percussion, French horn, hammer dulcimer, and piano.

The concert will conclude with attendees invited to join the choir to perform Handel's Hallelujah chorus, a tradition begun in 2004 that remains an annual highlight. All are invited to a reception in the Fellowship Hall of the church, following the concert.