Tradition of the Christmas spirit

As the celebration of Christmas seems to come closer and closer to some each year, members of the Sequim Community Christmas Chorus have no qualms talking Christmas each September.

For the eighth year

Sequim Community Christmas Chorus’ 30th anniversary

Shows: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, and 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday Dec. 6-7

Location: Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church, 30 Sanford Lane.

Tickets: $5 (suggested donation) at the door or in advance at Bauer Interior Design, the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce and Hart’s Fine Books in Sequim and Elliott’s Antique Emporium in Port Angeles. Children under 12 free. A portion of proceeds are donated to local charities with donations of $700 made to Sequim Community Aid and the Shipley Center in 2013.

More info: Call Gail Sumpter at 477-9361 or at




As the celebration of Christmas seems to come closer and closer to some each year, members of the Sequim Community Christmas Chorus have no qualms talking Christmas each September.

For Jackie Dawley, one of the founding singers of the group, she said it’s not a big deal beginning rehearsals then.

“Not anymore,” she said.

Dawley and 64 other singers make up the chorus for its 30th year with performances on Dec. 5-7 at Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church, 30 Sanford Lane. Gary McRoberts directs and Kayla Dyment accompanies on piano.

If you go to McRoberts’ house in the summer, it’s likely you’ll hear the upcoming year’s program as he selects the songs.

“When I hear little things or things pop into my mind, I wonder if I want to use it or not all the time,” McRoberts said.

As custom, the ecumenical group focuses on traditional Christmas choral songs with no secular music.

“The chorus started out that way and that’s the way they want to keep going,” McRoberts said.

It formed behind the efforts of Elaine Carlson and downtown merchants with local church choirs coming together to put on an entertaining Christmas show emphasizing what they believe is the true meaning of Christmas. In 1984, Phil Rader directed the first chorus with 175 singers, which also included the Sequim High School Choir and Bell Choir at the Sequim Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Some of this year’s music selection includes hymns like the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s “Messiah,” and “Gesù bambino” and “What a Wonderful Child” with solos by Cynthia Webster and Ray Chirayath. “The blend this year is one of the best it’s ever been,” McRoberts said.

“One of my favorites is “‘O Magnum Mysterium,” a Renaissance piece. It’s very polyphonic and every line is independent and challenging.”

Another favorite of his is “Nowell” arranged by Dan Forrest that includes a bit of the traditional “The First Noel,” McRoberts said.

Sounds of community

Members of the chorus say it remains a true community chorus 30 years later with no auditions and no fees to join.

“The music has been maintained since the beginning as spiritual,” Dawley said. “We want to be known as a public group that’s grounded in the true meaning of Christmas.”

Dawley took a few years off when her children were teenagers, she said, but she brought them when they were younger to do some of their homework there. She’s kept singing with the group, Dawley says, because it puts her on a different plane.

“When you are in the midst of a choral group and hear all the different sounds and vocal chords, I think it’s beautiful,” she said.

Each year, a new set of singers joins the group like soloist Chirayath who moved to Sequim with his wife in August. He’s sung in choirs on both coasts and heard about the Sequim chorus from his fellow church’s choir members at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Chirayath thinks this community chorus stacks up fairly well to others he’s joined.

“Even though we’re a small community, we have a lot of good voices,” he said.

McRoberts agrees.

“This blend is the best it’s ever been,” he said.

“There seems to be something about them working together. This year even more so. They all stay later and they all work. It’s a great feeling and a great group of songs.”

Chirayath said he’s performed a few of the songs before and finds McRoberts does a great job of putting it all together.

“Gary is very gifted and talented,” he said. “(McRoberts) has a different style and he takes pieces and works on them opposed to trying it all at once.”

For more information on the Sequim Community Christmas Chorus, contact Gail Sumpter at 477-9361 or at



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