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Art Beat: Gwinnett Choral Guild's Christmas includes spirit of 'umoja'

Special Photo. The Gwinnett Choral Guild will perform their annual Christmas Concert Dec. 5 at Buford First United Methodist Church.

Special Photo. The Gwinnett Choral Guild will perform their annual Christmas Concert Dec. 5 at Buford First United Methodist Church.

"Umoja" is a Swahili word for "unity" and one of the seven elements of Kwanzaa, in which it symbolizes "to strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community and nation."

The Gwinnett Choral Guild has chosen this word as a theme for its entire season, with special meaning for the upcoming holiday concerts.

"The Gwinnett Choral Guild promotes unity in our community as we collaborate with a number of local artists to present a season of storytelling: poetry, prose and song," said Choral Guild Artistic Director G. Phillip Shoultz III. "We will work with a local author/storyteller, present the Georgia premiere of 'A Bluegrass Mass' with bluegrass musicians, sing with other choirs and invite our audiences to sing with us as we work towards umoja."

The Gwinnett Choral Guild's holiday season begins Sunday, when the guild joins forces with the B.J. Chorale for a "Messiah Sing Along." The community is invited to participate in this annual holiday tradition of singing George Frederic Handel's "Messiah." The event will begin at 3 p.m. and will be held at the Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church at 800 U.S. Highway 29 S. in Lawrenceville. Admission is free, although donations will be accepted.

On Dec. 5, the group will present its annual Christmas concert at Buford First United Methodist Church. Starting at 7 p.m. the 50-plus voices of the Gwinnett Choral Guild will present "Light Divine: Illumine Our Darkness." This work will tell the story of Christmas through the eyes of diverse peoples.

Joining the Choral Guild will be award-winning author Fran Stewart and the Georgia Young Men's Ensemble. The concert will also feature several opportunities for the audience to sing along to favorite Christmas carols.

Tickets to this event are $12 for general admission in advance and $15 at the door. Students, seniors and groups often or more are $7 in advance or $10 at the door.

The next day, Dec. 6, the Gwinnett Choral Guild will travel to downtown Atlanta, where the group will repeat this concert at the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, launching the church's 2009-10 Community Concert Series. This concert will begin at 3 p.m. and tickets are the same price as the Dec. 5 event. Druid Hills Presbyterian is at 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave. in Atlanta.

The Gwinnett Choral Guild was founded in 1983, making it one of the oldest nonprofit performing groups in the area. For more than 25 years, the group has performed throughout the Atlanta area and Georgia, as well as at the Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C., the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Vermont International Choral Festival in Stowe, VT. The guild has also had the privilege of performing in St. Petersburg, Russia, in addition to hosting a Russian choral group in Gwinnett County.

To purchase tickets for these holiday concerts with a credit card, visit BrownPaperTickets.com and search for the Gwinnett Choral Guild. For more information, call 404-223-9962 or e-mail info@gwinnettchoralguild.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.