Part Musical, Part Chorus, Show Is All Fun

Mix of carols and rock rhythms last year drew 1,800 and four

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Expect two surprises on Sunday.

Surprise one: Rim Country has a passel of talented musicians.

Surprise two: Rim Country has a plethora of generous people.

Although — come to think of it — you probably won’t be surprised if you attended last year’s communitywide Christmas musical extravaganza.

Some 75 performers and volunteers have been working for the past two months to stage the 90-minute mingling of plays, Christmas carols, performances, Nativity scenes and singing groups.

“We’ve got some pretty phenomenal singers,” said Eric Santana, who has organized and directed the pageant for the past six years. “Some of these people can’t even read music, but the music that comes out of them is unbelievable.”

The 75 musicians, actors and singers will offer a show at 4 p.m. and again at 6 p.m. Sunday in the Payson High School auditorium.

Last year, the two free performances drew 1,800 spectators who donated 2,000 pounds of food — enough to fill four trucks.

This year, backers hope to better those numbers in the middle of a communitywide food drive intended to rescue overwhelmed food banks, who have reported a sharp rise in requests for food in the face of the recession.

Most of the churches in the area back the non-denominational show, which attempts to capture the spirit of both Christmas and the community. The churches and a handful of private sponsors have raised about $3,000 to put on the show. Entrance is free to the community, but organizers hope people will bring cans of food or cash donations to help feed neighbors who have fallen in hard times in the midst of the deepest economic downturn in generations.

Santana, normally an insurance salesman, said the hundreds of hours of rehearsal and preparation have been both stressful and inspiring. “You put together a program that fits the talent, then you give it to God,” he said.

But don’t come expecting a church choir.

“It’s kind of the Electric Light Orchestra meets the Trans Siberian Orchestra — except we’re not that good,” laughed Santana.

So expect angelic kids choirs from the school, seasonal music with a rock band tempo, a Christmas take on a rock musical like “Tommy” and assorted surprises along the way.

The rehearsals, the effort and the performance not only unite all the normally separate congregations, but represent a gift of light and music to the community at large, he said.

“Each year it grows and we get more people involved. It’s designed to reach out to the community. You won’t find anything like this in the local churches, because it’s a gift to the community. It’s just a little mixture of everything.”

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