A twist on the traditional Christmas story

Nathan Liewicki
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Choir and cast members of Briercrest College and Seminary's musical production 'Love's Pilgrimage' perform a number as director Ron de Jager conducts the orchestra on Saturday evening. The production was one of four the school performed this past weekend.

As a violin solo pierced the darkness, every eye in the chapel looked for where the beautiful sound was coming from.

A spotlight appeared. There stood the violinist – stage right – gently strumming the strings of the instrument with a bow.

The crowd remained silent as a voice and the sight of cast members making their way on to the stage for the opening scene of the opening act replaced the violin.

Love’s Pilgrimage – Briercrest College and Seminary’s dramatic musical adaptation of the first Christmas – was underway.

After five acts and a 20-minute intermission it was over. But not before the audience was treated to pastime Christmas carols, musicality that seemed to nail every staccato and tenuto note perfectly, pyrotechnics and a number of comedic lines that made the crowd roar with laughter.

Responsible for the majority of humor and musical selections in the production was Ron de Jager. An associate professor of music and voice at Briercrest, de Jager served as the production’s artistic director for four productions this past weekend.

At the conclusion of Saturday evening’s show, de Jager expressed a look of satisfaction as he and the approximately 150 cast, crew and musicians that were part of Love’s Pilgrimage bowed to the audience.

He admitted that he finds it difficult to bow, and that he’d rather just “walk off and go hide.”

“You give so much of yourself on the stage. You feel depleted and a little vulnerable when you are done, so when you turn to bow it's the audience saying thank you,” de Jager said. “And I'm saying you're welcome.”

De Jager also told the Times-Herald that he looked at his role in the production as having played only a small part in the overall picture.

“I look at it as God gave me some gifts, and I share them as liberally as I can,” said de Jager.

Apparently one of the gifts God gave Michael King was to make people laugh.

King played the role of Caleb, who like Mary and Joseph, was on a pilgrimage with his wife. A fourth year Bachelor of Arts and Music student, King was the main source of humour in the production, including when he referred to a camel with two humps as “an armrest for your whole body.”

Unable to really explain how he was able to make the audience laugh so much, King said he kept telling himself that Caleb was a light-hearted individual.

“I bear in mind that he maintains that light-heartedness because of his faith and is able to be optimistic throughout all of his experiences,” said King.

While King is a student at Briercrest, Abigail Miller is not.

She graduated from the school in 2011, but has remained in Caronport teaching private voice lessons.

Like a number of other former Briercrest graduates, Miller was involved in Love’s Pilgrimage, playing the role of Naomi – Mary’s mother.

Miller said the production was very special.

“I think it's because it's the telling of the first Christmas in a way in which people haven't maybe thought of it before,” said Miler. “I almost cry on stage every single time.”

She told the Times-Herald the overarching message of the production was that Jesus came to the world as its Saviour in the form of baby Jesus. 

“It's the first time I've been in a production where we (told) the real story of Jesus,” said Miller. “And it was so much more powerful because there's no greater story to tell about Christmas than Jesus' coming.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Briercrest College, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Caronport

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