BY STEVEN JUPITER
BRANDON — Snow has been rare so far this holiday season, but it was falling softly on Sunday afternoon as the perfect backdrop to a decades-old Christmas tradition in this New England town: the Brandon Festival Singers presented their 40th Christmas Concert at the Congregational Church in downtown Brandon.
The white-steepled church, built in the 1830s, was packed for the event. After a two-year hiatus during the COVID pandemic, the in-person concert was a welcome return to tradition and normalcy.
Gene Childers, the musical director, started the annual Christmas concert back in 1980 and has conducted every concert since, accompanied on piano by Jean Childers, his wife. Two other members of the ensemble have been part of the program for all 40 years: Ellen Knapp and Beverly Sabatini. Mr. Childers presented bouquets to all three of these veteran members at the end of the concert.
After a brief introduction by the church’s own Rev. Sara Rossig, the program began with a majestic instrumental rendition of Handel’s Joy to the World by the Catamount Brass Quintet, in their second appearance in the concert series. The rest of the program included classical, traditional, and modern pieces. Mr. Childers even presented two of his own compositions: Mary Had a Baby and Merry Christmas, My Friend.
Soloists included Mrs. Childers, flautist Julia March, soprano Teena Foster, and whistler Bernie Carr. A trio of sopranos (Anna DeBoer, Hillary Collier, and Barbara White) performed a lovely version of the iconic Carol of the Bells.
At the end of the concert, Mr. Childers offered the aforementioned bouquets as he acknowledged Ms. Knapp and Ms. Sabatini. The room gave Mrs. Childers a standing ovation when her husband praised her musicianship and presented her with a bouquet. The room stood again when Bernie Carr stepped forward from the ensemble to thank Mr. Childers himself.
In his remarks, Mr. Carr offered this nutshell description of Brandon: “We’re a joyous little village.” This concert by Mr. Childers and his performers was ample proof of that indeed.