“Behold: A Folk Christmas Cantata” is Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s artistic contribution to Fayetteville’s Christmas season. “Behold” takes the familiar Christmas story and sets it to what STS describes as “glorious, mostly new music that quickly feels familiar.” It’s a Christmas concert that tells the nativity story from beginning to end through music, and it takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6-15, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.
This is STS’ fourth year performing “Behold.” The performance is 100 percent music and features three acoustic guitars (played by one player), an electric guitar, mandolin and banjo (played by another person), a bass guitar, an accordion, a piano, two violins, one cello and a percussionist — and plenty of singers, too. And while it is a Christmas concert, don’t expect to hear songs like “Jingle Bells” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
“We try to tell the real story of the nativity,” said Marie Lowe, STS associate director, and for this production, singer and cellist. “One of the songs begins, ‘It was not a silent night ...’ and it goes on to remind us about how scared Mary and Joseph must have been. They were people, just like us. So, there are somber and reflective moments, but the overall mood is joyful — it’s Christmas, and we’re together, and we’re glad and grateful.”
Jacob French is Master of Note at Sweet Tea Shakespeare (think “resident music director”) as well as an assistant artistic director and board member for the company. For this production, he’s the music director and plays the guitar and sings as well. He’s excited that “Behold” is becoming a holiday staple for so many. “We want to be one of the things that folks around town think about and look forward to when Christmas rolls around,” he said.
“The piece is mainly based upon a show called ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ by Andrew Peterson. Our artistic director, Jeremy Fiebig, knew of the show and music from his days prior to Sweet Tea Shakespeare. Once the company reached a place where we could do it justice, we thought it would be a natural fit. We supplement the original show with a few other songs that we think fit the message and feel as well.”
French added, “I think ‘Behold’ is a niche that isn’t (or wasn’t) filled until now in town. The story of the virgin birth is one of the biggest stories every told, and (it) is cram-packed full of love — Mary, Joseph, Jesus, God himself — love coming out your ears. The music does a great job of telling the story, and when we play it, I can feel the love in the room. … There are funny moments, serious ones, contemplative ones, ones that could make you cry, and ones that will make you clap along and dance. If I had to choose one word to describe the feeling, I think I’d choose ‘reflective.’”
In addition to the concert, STS will have traditional front-of-house activities accompanying the show. There will be beverages (adult and non) for purchase, merchandise for sale, preconcert entertainment and, French promises, “a warm holiday spirit.”
The show starts at 7 p.m. each night. Tickets are free but require a reservation. To purchase tickets, or to learn more, call 910-420-4383, visit www.sweetteashakespeare.com or search the group’s Facebook page.