Arts and Entertainment

Sylvan Way tree finds its voice

 - Rogerick Anas
— image credit: Rogerick Anas

A tree will be alive with the sound of music today, Dec. 15, in the main congregation hall at Sylvan Way Baptist Church.

The sixth annual Singing Tree, directed by Pastor David Martinez, has become a popular holiday tradition. If you don’t already have a ticket for today’s two performances, you’re out of luck — all 1,200 seats have been sold.

“They’re all gobbled up,” Martinez said of the tickets. “We were hoping to do more shows but the African Children’s Choir could only be here for Saturday.”

The church’s 35-member choir will perform at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., backed by a 30-piece orchestra composed of church members, the Bremerton Symphony and friends of Martinez. The songs range from traditional to big-band sounds.

“This is supposed to be a relaxing, fun evening,” the pastor said. “We get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and this is an escape from all of that.”

The shows also include performances by the African Children’s Choir, which is composed of 5- to 12-year-old African orphans. The group has been touring the United States since 1984, but this will be the first time it’s done a repertoire of Christmas songs.

“They’ve never performed in a Christmas setting before,” Martinez said. “So they are preparing to do a special presentation.”

According to African Children’s Choir literature, the group’s purpose is to “raise awareness of the need of destitute and orphaned children in East and West Africa.”

The church will ask for a $2 admission donation for the first time, Martinez said.

“The proceeds are going to help the choir’s orphanage in Uganda,” he said. “It is our Christmas gift to them.”

Besides the music and the performers, the tree itself is part of the show.

Martinez said it usually takes between eight and 10 days to set up for the performance, though the choir has been practicing for the past three months.

After one crew of volunteers erected the tree, another group swathed the 30-foot-tall structure with a layer of artificial pine tree needles. A third crew, led by lighting director Jon Gardner, attached nearly 10,000 lights from the tree’s base to the star on top.

“There’s enough lights on there that you’ll pop the circuit breaker in the back if they’re all on one fuse,” Gardner said.

Gardner controls all the lights, with the help of a control board in the balcony.

“There are 512 settings available which we can use but we’re only using 22 right now,” said Gardner, who has been running the church’s lights for two years. “There’s all kinds of fun things you can do with the control board to make the lights match each song.”

After six years, Martinez said it has become easy to prepare for the performances.

“We have a system in place,” he said. “Everything has been very smooth.”

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