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Friday, December 12, 2008

Heidi Joy’s “Holiday Joy” Concert

Last week, a friend and I attended Heidi Joy’s annual Christmas concert, called Holiday Joy, and, as always, it was a beautiful way to kick off the Christmas season.

Joy started performing this concert in 2000 and I’ve caught all but a couple of the shows. I asked her recently how it felt to know that her show had become a tradition to so many people.

“It was my intent after seeing how successful the first Holiday Joy show was, to keep it a tradition for my fans who attended,” she said. “I also wanted it to grow so that other community members could enjoy the music of the Season. I can’t explain the joy and gratitude I feel at being able to share my gift and use my talents on a daily basis. I am so pleased to know my favorite hobby is also my career.”

She opened with a playful song from the 1950s called “Man with the Bag.” Then she transitioned into “Winter Wonderland.” The stage had several Christmas trees on it that were wired to change colors as she sang. The stage was trimmed with lighted greenery and ten large, lighted snowflakes that hung over head. They changed colors as well.

As is always the case with Joy, her song selection this year was quite varied, which always makes it fun. And she had a few new local musicians this year as well—some of whom included members from another band she is in called Riverside Anthology. She enjoys sharing the stage with local talent.

“I like to keep things interesting for my audiences, so I perform a variety of musical styles and am accompanied by various musicians,” she said. “This year, I enjoyed singing with each group. It also keeps it fun for me to know that a harp and vocal duet might be followed by a soft song. Then a few minutes later, the audience is enjoying an upbeat holiday favorite. And I love showcasing local talent. It is abundant in Omaha.”

Half way through the first set, she sang “Gesu Bambino,” a song from the early 1900s. I can’t imagine anybody else signing these words more powerfully:

When blossoms flower e’er ’mid the snows,
Upon a winter night,
Was born the child, the christmas rose,
The king of love and light.

Armed with an operatic voice that seems to be able to touch the heavens, Joy caressed this song for us and brought us back to the first Christmas Day, and then she let us linger there a while.

A couple of songs later she sang a moving original song called “Snowflakes,” which is a song about the journey all of us take. The song has taken on new meaning in Omaha since the tragic shooting at Von Maur last December. A few weeks after the shooting, she sang it at an event called We are O!ne, meant to bring healing to the community.

Here’s how the song begins:

When we begin
We play on the wind
Softly coming down
When we fall
We feel so small
As we look around
When our journey is done
We will be as one
When we reach the ground

Toward the end of the first set, Joy sang an old spiritual called “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Yeah, she’s that talented. She can transition from opera to an old spiritual without you even realizing what just happened. To her, good music is good music, and she covers the gamut. She also enjoys digging for old songs that are out of circulation and she breathes new life into them. One of them is a Stevie Wonder song from 1967 called “One Little Christmas Tree” which she sang in the second set.

“A few years ago, I made a point to search out old Christmas songs that I could bring to life on our stage,” she said. “There are fine songs with beautiful messages that seem to have gotten lost through the years. ‘One Little Christmas Tree’ is one of these songs. The message is clear that anyone can make a difference in other people’s lives and ‘throughout the world.’”

In years past, Joy performed my favorite Christmas song, “Mary, Did you Know?” early in the show, so I kept listening for the opening notes of the song throughout the first set and then the second, but it wasn’t there. She left the stage and came back for an encore and thankfully it was one of the three final songs she played for the evening.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, I’ve heard many recorded renditions of this song and none of them can touch Joy’s version. Once in a great, great while a musician does a song so well that something magical takes place. The music takes you past the performer, past the stage, past the concert hall—and into a sacred place that you never want to leave. That’s what happens every time I hear Joy sing “Mary, Did You Know?”

Can you tell that I’m already looking forward to her concert next year?

Joy has two Christmas CDs available. Pick up both of them. You won't be sorry. Here's a link to her website. Just click on CDs.


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