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Free concert brings spirit of the holidays to Genesee County

Batavia's First Presbyterian Church will be alive with rousing holiday spirit when "Christmas with Vox, a Festival of Carols" comes around on Friday, Dec. 20.

"Vox Lumine," a professional chorus group made up of 25 members from all over Western and Central New York, is performing for the public free of charge at the church, at 300 E. Main St. in Batavia.

Ann Emmans, minister of music at First Presbyterian, says this is going to be "the church's gift to the community."

"We had ('Vox Lumine') at the church for a concert in May," Emmans said, "and it was delightful.  We thought, 'What would be more wonderful than to have them back for Christmas?' "

Costs are being covered by the church's memorial donation funds from the last few years.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and will probably run about an hour and a half, according to "Vox Lumine" first tenor Mark Ross.

A reception with Christmas cookies and punch will follow in the church's fellowship area.

The performance will feature 17 Christmas songs, including classics such as "Carol of the Bells" and "Joy to the World" and lesser know works, as well as pieces with different ethnic backgrounds (including Polish and Italian).

Emmans stressed that the music is "non-commercial" and has a "sacred character."

"It's more about the joy of the season," she said.

"(The Christmas season) is a time when people appreciate music even more than they normally do," Ross said, "because it's associated with the events of the holiday."

"Vox Lumine" was formed in March 2010 by founder and director Brandon Johnson, D.M.A, director of choral activities at Houghton College.

Ross, of Batavia, said they have done concerts as far east as Ithaca and as far west as Orchard Park.

Because members live in scattered locations (the member living at the farthest distance from Batavia is from Syracuse), Johnson sends the music to each of them individually. They will come together in two rehearsals between now and Dec. 20 to "meld" (in Emmans' words) what they have learned together. So each will quite literally bring his/her own voice to the performance.

A Houghton graduate, a member of First Presbyterian Church for 41 years and currently commissioned lay pastor at Stone Church Presbyterian in Bergen, Ross is very happy to be a part of the upcoming performance. It coincides with his retirement from New York Central Mutual Insurance, where he worked for 27 years as an insurance adjustor.

"It's a wonderful combination," he said with a smile on his face.

For more information, call the church at 343-0505 or e-mail Emmans at HEmmans@aol.com.

Pictured Emmans and Ross at the First Presbyterian Church sanctuary.

Top photo submitted by Mark Ross.

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