The Canyon Singers delighted a receptive audience at Kanab High School auditorium on Sunday evening, December 18. Each year, music lovers and holiday spirited Kanab residents anticipate the holiday concert, maintaining its popularity through their attendance.

Seated between decorated trees with a wreath and garland above, the choir prepared to outshine the lights around them. With firm, yet loving, and comedic direction by Mary McDonald, the Canyon Singers, who have nearly doubled in size over the past five years, performed a melodic and inspirational arrangement of religious and secular Christmas songs. And shine they did!

An opening blessing was followed by voices from heaven: an ensemble singing from above in a candlelit balcony, drawing the audience in with a Russian song, Spaseniye Soldelal, setting the stage of professionalism and talent of Kanab’s chorus of wonderful singers.

Among the many highlights of the evening were several solo performances:

Like a rose in the Kanab desert, Barbara Sanderson’s vibrato blossomed through her captivating solo, There is No Rose.

Spotlighting some of the younger voices in the choir, Breath of Heaven introduced us to new solo voices of Andrea Fisher and Kelly Bistine. Rebekah Marshall, who has been with the choir for several years, sang with a maturity that was exciting to hear.

Soloists Mariah Wheeler and Rex Yancey performed Song of Mary and Joseph in crisp and powerful precision, receiving resounding applause.

Several contemplative, and sometimes amusing, readings by Jo Quinby, Colleen McMullen, Barbara Sanderson and Mary McDonald complemented the musical program.

The Canyon Singers’ performance of Prologue in Heaven (Glory to God) highlighted their growth as a choir over the past five years, a tribute to McDonald’s superb direction and the hard work and dedication of all of the singers during rehearsals throughout the year. An impressive standing ovation before intermission resulted.

One theater goer was “impressed by the dynamic range and soloists and crisp response of the choir to the soloists.”

A local family commented that the concert “put them in the holiday spirit and was special because their daughter is in the choir.”

After intermission, laughter filled the auditorium as an angel appeared onstage to some brief heckling. Everyone was entertained by the song Monotone Angel, a comical “audition” by Terry Parthemore and supported by the choir.

Parthemore showed the audience angels do indeed appear on this earth in many forms, and none so memorable as his angel in white, feathered wings and shiny, long, brown tresses singing off-key with the choir.

Carey Belcher’s vocal clarity exuded an innocent longing for a savior here on earth in her performance of the ballad Child of Our Dreams, accompanied by Virgil Barstad on viola and Ina MaeTait on piano.

Leading the audience into some favorite carols, the choir and an ensemble performed a lively version of Walking In a Winter Wonderland.

In perfect harmony, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas was performed a capella in traditional barber-shop style by Mariah Wheeler, Connie B. Keller, Phyllis Huntington and Carey Belcher.

Virgil Barstad introduced Tammy Yamada explaining how her family was impacted by the tsunami in Japan this year. Her sincerity and dramatic hesitation as she sang I’ll Be Home for Christmas were reminiscent of Christmases past, giving special meaning to all families, and her especially.

True to tradition, McDonald led the audience in a sing-along with the choir - this year, a medley of standard carols to the delight of the audience.

Culminating with the beloved and much anticipated performance of The Halleluja Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, the Canyon Singers demonstrated professionalism and such growth with their combining voices.

The finale, This Christmastide, performed by Olyvia Chairez and Dorene Mudrow, enraptured the audience embracing us in fellowship.

About a dozen musicians from The Symphony of the Canyons accompanied the choir throughout the musical celebration. Ina Mae Tait, pianist extraordinaire, continues to be a joy to watch at the grand piano. First violinist Linda Ghidossi-DeLuca soothed the audience while Mariah Clayson’s talent in percussion added exclamation to The Hallelujah Chorus and many other songs throughout the evening.