Today we went to Grace Church to see a friend's son, who was one of the drummers performing in their Christmas extravaganza, Drummer Boy 09.
Grace Church is one of the largest non-denominational churches in the area. We were told to arrive quite early, and I'm glad we took the advice. About a block from the complex, traffic stopped. It was stop and go until we reached the entrance to the parking lot, where there were people dressed in orange jumpsuits directing cars. After we parked, we followed the crowd towards the building.
The first thing we saw when we entered was people. A lot of people milling around. Standing in line at the coffee bar. Sitting at small tables eating, drinking, and chatting with their friends. It was hard for me to realize I was in a church. Again following the stream of people, we headed towards the auditorium, which had two levels-the main room and a second floor balcony which wrapped around three sides of the huge room. The area was so big that not everyone could see the stage, but there were jumbotron screens on either side of it to show the action.
Although we arrived 45 minutes before the start of the program, the room was almost filled up. We grabbed a place in the second pew from the rear on the right side. Soon we heard an announcement that there was no more room in the auditorium, but "overflow seating" was available in an alternate area. Ten minutes before the hour, there was another announcement that anyone who was saving seats should release them for people who were already here. At showtime, the place was packed.
We had been to a version of the show two years ago, so we knew what to expect. Right after the house lights went down, the spectacle began. The program was a little Stomp, a little Blue Man Group, and a little Trans-Siberian Orchestra with an African and Brazilian flavor. I didn't recognize a couple of the songs (but they conveniently put the words up on the screen), and they put a unique contemporary spin on the "classic" carols. The big production had dozens of percussionists, and a few singers and dancers (including two awesome tap dancers). The sound system really showcased the music, and the light show rivaled anything I've seen at a concert-there were even some lasers flashing around the darkened auditorium.
Halfway through, the pastor got up and said a few words, the ushers passed the basket, and then the lights were lowered again for the second half. When the stage was crowded with performers and huge drums were lowered from the ceiling of the auditorium, I figured we were coming up on the culmination of the program. I was right. The pastor came out for a few more words, then an on-stage duo led the congregation in a short sing-along before everyone started heading back to their cars.
Here's a video of last year's program that gives a taste of the spectacle: