Christmas in August: Plans underway for Briercrest's 'Christmas in Caronport'

Julie Cole | Aug 12, 2013
Ron de Jager, department chair for the Music and Worship Arts department at Briercrest College and Seminay, is busy preparing for this year's Christmas production entitled Love's Pilgrimage. Ron de Jager, department chair for the Music and Worship Arts department at Briercrest College and Seminay, is busy preparing for this year's Christmas production entitled Love's Pilgrimage.Ron de Jager, department chair for the Music and Worship Arts department at Briercrest College and Seminay, is busy preparing for this year's Christmas production entitled Love's Pilgrimage.

As Ron de Jager sits at the piano in his office on a sunny summer afternoon, his mind is already on Christmas.

“We’re doing a full musical again this year,” Briercrest’s department chair for music and worship arts said explaining the format for the school’s Christmas production which he is directing. “That means there’s a dramatic component and a music component. There will be soloists, ensembles and a choir. We’re going to have an orchestra again this year.”

Love’s Pilgrimage, the original play which is currently being written, will be set in the time of Jesus.

“It carries several stories throughout it – the stories of several people,” de Jager said.  “It begins with the prophetess Anna and her waiting for the Messiah. She’s kind of a prologue and epilogue to it and then (in between) more the stories of Mary and Joseph.”

Besides working with the writer, de Jager also consulted with several theologians to make sure the story was culturally and historically accurate.

“There’s a creative team that is behind the writing of it,” he said. “I kind of steer that because then I have to say, ‘Yes, this will work on stage, but this won’t.’ It’s important to note that it’s a creative adaptation of the first Christmas story, so there will be fictitious characters that would be plausible in the story, but they’re not in Scripture.”

While there may be a few original songs written for the production, the show will be filled with traditional Christimas music.

“We’re going to have traditional Christmas music that (the audience) is going to recognize – that they associate with Christmas,” de Jager exclaimed. “I think it awakens memories of Christmas within them. I think that’s a wonderful thing. When I was a kid we used to go out every Christmas Eve and sing Silent Night. (Today) when I hear Silent Night, it just brings me right back.”

Although the preparations for Christmas in Caronport can be overwhelming at times, the director insists he loves it all.

“I think I really enjoy the whole process,” he said. “Each part (of the planning) is exciting and each part has its challenges.”

Several people over the years have requested for de Jager to produce a play set in biblical times.  Ken Guenter, Briercrest’s assistant professor of Old Testament suggested the character of Anna. Guenter, who is also an artist, will be helping out with set design for the production.

“We’re going to start with (Anna) as an old lady who comes out and remembers back,” de Jager explained. “We’re going to start with a Jewish wedding and she’s going to remember when she was young so we’ll have a young and an old Anna. At one point I’d like to have a duet between the two. It’s hard for a lot of our audience to grasp time jumps, so it will have to be really clear, but I think it could be really powerful with the two of them singing together.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful story,” he continued. “I had to wait until the time was right to do it. I think it will be great.”

The program director has no problem thinking of reasons why people should buy a ticket and come to this year’s Christmas in Caronport celebration is scheduled for November 29-December 1.

“This is what Christmas is all about,” he said speaking of the play’s focus on the first Christmas. “There’s no production of this magnitude in this province. It’s amazing what happens. We’ve had audiences of 8-10,000 on a weekend. That’s pretty incredible.”