by Shannon Pleasant, Director of Public Affairs, Austin Oak Hills Stake
AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Oak Hills and Austin West Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented ‘Joy to the World: A Musical Celebration of Christmas’ to a full house estimated at 600 attendees each night on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7, 2019, at the 5201 Convict Hill Road chapel.
The free, annual concert featured a choir, orchestra, bell choir, children’s choir and a Christmas message by Michael T. Smith, president of the Austin Oak Hills Stake.
Austin Waldorf School, Ascension Lutheran Church and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church provided percussion and handbells for the concert.
“Joy is the purpose of our existence. Can we feel that joy today and every day?” Smith asked during his message. “Certainly we can. Joy comes from thinking about needs outside of our own and being willing to give up things important to us for others,” he added.
In his presentation, Smith extended an invitation for all to emulate the Savior in words and actions.
The music highlighted various genres with performances from traditional favorites to new arrangements including a lively trumpet solo entitled Bugler’s Holiday, a gospel piano and vocal number called Oh, Jerusalem, an original arrangement of O Little Town of Bethlehem and O Divine Redeemer sung by a soprano soloist who received an impromptu standing ovation.
The finale featured the program theme, Joy to the World, incorporating organ and a full choir.
Performers were a mixture of professionals and amateurs who volunteered several months at weekly rehearsals for the musical event which has become an area Christmas tradition and has allowed local congregations of the church “to give back to their communities” through music, Smith said.
“Members of the Church and those of other faiths who participate in the performance enjoy sharing their talents and expressing their joy in the Christmas season with others,” Matthew Stout, a performer in the celebration and a counselor in the Oak Hills stake presidency, explained.
Stout said that through their volunteering and practice comes the added benefit of strengthening individual convictions and testimonies of the Savior.
Necia Kitchen attended both nights of the concert with family to support her daughter and husband who have performed in it for years. She explained how the sacrifice pays off as a “wonderful opportunity to share testimony through music.”
“We enjoy listening to the music and the trumpet piece really captured my kids’ attention this year,” Kitchen said.