Christmas with the Arts celebrates local performers

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Henry Arts Alliance President Lynna Schmidt says the annual Christmas with the Arts enables performers to entertain audiences for the holiday season, and to support each other at the same time.

The 24th season of Christmas with the Arts was held last Sunday. File photo

“It’s like an amped-up variety show,” she says. “There’s no rehearsal. We just come together and perform, and anything can happen which, in my mind, makes it really fun for the audience and the performers.”

The 2015 program was presented Sunday at the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough. Performers for the event included The Front Porch Players, Atlanta Festival Ballet, The Dance Academy, Upstage Dance, the Henry Singers, the Academy Theatre, Gift of Dance, and the Henry Players. Newcomers to the event this year were the Paideia Arts group and the W.I.S.E.-Gifted Feet Ensemble.

This year marks the 24th season for Christmas with the Arts. Schmidt said one reason for its continued success over the years is that local performers combine their talents and energy with the goal of entertaining people.

That support, she says, helps foster the growth of the arts within the county.

“I think what makes this event so unique and so festive is that involves a lot of the visual and performing arts groups in the county,” says Schmidt. “Because there is no rehearsal, everybody’s helping everybody else backstage. There’s no competition between theaters, there’s no competition between dance companies. Everybody’s working together to have a really good time together and supporting each other. That, to me, is what really makes it more special. I think that joy and that laughter and that friendship that’s happening backstage -- it spills out onto the stage and the audience can see that.”

Keila Harvey, owner and director of Gift of Dance Studio in McDonough, has participated in Christmas with the Arts for the last several years. Her school includes kids as young as 2 years old, as well as older children.

Harvey says her dancers look forward to the event every year.

“We pretty much make it an annual tradition now. We’re locked in,” she says. “Our school doesn’t really do large-scale productions like ‘The Nutcracker,’ like some other studios do, so we treat Christmas with the Arts like our Christmas recital. Our parents love it. It gets them in the Christmas spirit.”

Harvey’s students began practicing for Christmas with the Arts at the beginning of November. According to Harvey, the group’s selection this year put a new twist on a popular holiday favorite.

“It’s a soulful version of Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ says Harvey. “We like to be unique and make a memorable performance.”

Christmas with the Arts also featured a Juried Arts Show in the lobby of the PAC. In addition, members of the Heritage Writers Group of Henry County shared copies of books by local authors during the event.