Plymouth Congregational Church choir director Diane Olson leads the Christmas Cantata during a past production of the event. The church will offer up its 2011 version Sunday at 10 a.m.

By Jennifer Eisenbart

Staff writer

Cantata – a composition for one or more voices usually comprising solos, duets, recitatives, and choruses and sung to an instrumental accompaniment.

A Christmas Cantata – a service of lessons and carols set to music provided by an orchestra, this Sunday at 10 a.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church, 124 W. Washington St., Burlington.

The cantata, now in its eighth season, will take the place of a traditional Christmas service and sermon. There will be the lighting of the advent candle preceding the cantata.

LaVonne Howell, who has participated with every one of the cantatas, said the program got its start when Diane Olson started as choir director for Plymouth Congregational.

“She’s very skilled with vocal … and is very good with an orchestra,” Howell said. “Up until this point, I don’t think anyone that we’ve had could handle both.”

Olson is also a teacher, and she started recruiting help from other teachers. The orchestra participants come from all over southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois, including the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra and the Burlington High School orchestra.

“Lo and behold, by the time we were done, we had a pretty good-sized orchestra,” Howell explained. Combined with a 30-person choir from the church, just short of 50 people are involved in the program.

The cantata is called “Gloria Deo” by Benjamin Harlan, with the orchestra part by John Purifoy. The entire piece is 40 minutes in length.

“It’s kind of a study in scripture and song,” Howell said. Performers read from scripture, and both old and new carols are part of the service as well.

Some of the songs included in the cantata are “Once In Royal David’s City,” “I Will Bless the Faithful,” “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” and “Lo, How A Rose ‘er Blooming.”

“The Holly and the Ivy” and “Sing We Now of Christmas” are also included. The Rev. Bob Wang and Jamie Ellingstad will have solos in the production.

The participants began practicing in October, and the show is open to the public. A coffee hour and fellowship will follow. The event is free, though a free-will offering will be taken.

“Mostly, we’re just trying to get people to appreciate the flavor of the season,” Howell said. “It’s turned into quite the production, and it’s very uplifting.”

For more information, contact Plymouth Congregational at (262) 763-6890.