NORWAY — The idea was simple. People of all ages who love Christmas music were encouraged to join a special Christmastide Choir at the Second Congregational Church.

No memorization, no auditions and no church affiliations were required.

For the past 15 years, local performer and music director of the Second Congregational Church Shirli Allen-Heald has directed the Christmastide Choir. It’s an eclectic group performing Christmas music to ring in the season.

“I initiated Christmastide when I started my job as music director for the church,” Allen-Heald said. “This is our 15th year. I develop the theme each year and oversee the production as well as direct the choral group and the children.”

Many of the adults have been involved from the beginning, she said.

“Once someone joins for a season, it seems they come back again and again,” she said.

This year, the choir has singers from Stoneham, Norway, Paris, Peru, Mexico, Harrison, Buckfield, Oxford and Sumner.

“From my perspective as music director  of Second Congregational Church UCC, I see Christmastide as a gift we give to each other and then to the wider community,” Allen-Heald said. “Christmastide provides a warm, welcoming space for adults and children to develop their God-given talents through music and movement, choral-singing and bell-ringing. Adults and children from all over the Oxford Hills come together, meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones. They appreciate each other’s support and advice, mirror kindness and respect and form a special bond.”

Nicholas Clough, 9, a home-schooled student from Norway, has been in the production for the past several years. In addition to being musical — he is learning to  play the keyboard at home — Nicholas said it gives him the opportunity to see some of his friends.

Hailey Pike, 9, a student art Harrison Elementary School, said she got involved in the production several years ago and although she missed one year, she’s back.

“I like to be on stage and sing,” she said. “It’s my hobby.”  

She attends the Bolsters Mills United Methodist Church, which is unable to offer a production like the one in Norway.

Allen-Heald considers the community production as a Christmas gift to all.

“I have heard over and over again that this concert sets the tone for many people’s Christmas,” she said. “For some, it is their only gift.” 

Allen-Heald is joined by production assistants Kate Wood of Otisfield, Sharon Hollowell and Pam Davison, both of West Paris, and Jean Saunders of Norway. This year, the church’s handbell choir, directed by Elaine Emery, will be in the production. The church has had English handbells since 1985.

The group will perform at the Second Congregation Church at Paris and Main streets on Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m.

Free tickets will be available through any cast member or at Books N Things on Main Street in Norway.

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