Singing Christmas Tree gets new structure for 2008

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Singing Christmas Tree will look a little different this year.

Members of the choir, which annually performs a free Christmas concert on the first weekend of December, were busy last week figuring out how to put a new metal tree structure together.

Board Chairwoman Sue Olson has been dreaming about getting a new structure for more than five years, she said, and now it’s here.

“It’s brand new, built just for us,” she said. “We got a new one. The cost was just a little more than $11,000. The tree was built by Unik Riser in Liberty Hill, Texas.

Bob Pickett picked it up and brought it back to Sweet Home, Olson said.

“When asked for a shipping fee quote, Bob said, ‘Think of it as a gift to our community.’ We cannot find the words to express our gratitude for this generous act.”

The structure has approximately the same dimensions as the old wooden one, Olson said.

“This one has seven tiers. The old one had six tiers.”

The new tree can hold 75 singers, she said, while the old tree could handle 50. The few times the Singing Christmas Tree has had more singers, they overflowed to the high school auditorium floor.

The Singing Christmas Tree started looking for a new riser after School District 55 Business Manager Kevin Strong raised safety concerns over the old structure, Olson said. Last year, members discovered a crack in the main beam, she said.

They started raising money to replace the structure.

“He did us a favor. He inspired everyone to get after it.”

In July, the Singing Christmas Tree received $13,930 in a “Grass Roots Grant” from the Meyer Memorial Trust, and two businesses, Sweet Home Funeral Chapel and Lakeside Market, each donated $500 to become the first “Patrons of the Sweet Home Singing Christmas Tree.”

With 40 singers, this year’s program will be directed by Ben Pickett. David Dominy continues to serve as senior director, but a new job as an officer with Lebanon Police Department has caused scheduling conflicts.

Like Dominy, Pickett was a student of Paul Rowton, who directed the Singing Christmas Tree for most of the past 27 years.

Pickett, of Jefferson, studied music in college although he chose not to become a music teacher, Olson said.

Rowton returns to the Singing Christmas Tree this year as a singer. He is planning to perform a solo.

This year’s theme is, “The Christmas Family, His and Ours.”

The first half will include traditional carols and some contemporary songs, Olson said. It will include one solo act, “Ave Maria,” by Crystal Kolling, a teacher at the Charter School.

The second half will tell the Nativity Story, with narration from the Bible as the choir works its way through several numbers.

Olson is seeking actors to portray parts in the Nativity scene. For information, call her at 367-4639.

The 27th annual Singing Christmas Tree will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6 and at 3 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the Sweet Home High School auditorium, 1641 Long St. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.