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Old Mission San Luis Rey Hosts Annual Christmas Concert

Christmas Season has officially started!  At least in my home.

Photos and story by Matt Lyons

Oceanside (San Luis Rey) CA – December 5, 2014
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Last night, on December 5th I attended the Olde San Luis Rey Mission’s annual Christmas concert with my family. This concert was filled with the joy of the season, as was expected and really jump-started our Christmas Season. It was magical as we walked from the parking lot toward the open and welcoming doors of the mission. The mission bells were ringing and the cool night air was just brisk enough to require me to wear my tweed sports jacket. All this made the event all the more cozy and created the proper holiday atmosphere for this immigrant into California from my native New England.

San Luis Rey Mission is known as the “King of the Missions,” it is the largest of all the 21 California missions. So it stands to reason they would have the best Christmas Concert.

Several Franciscan Friars were in attendance in traditional brown robes as were numerous volunteers of Mission San Luis Rey to help pull this event off in proper fashion and offering a Christmas greetings and inviting smiles. The mission volunteers happily escorting each of the guests to their respective seats. Attendees enjoyed music performed by the Martin Luther King Middle School (8th Grade) Advanced Orchestra – String Quartet as we all made our way to our seats and quietly visited with each other before the featured concert began.

san_luis_rey_concert_matt_lyons03This year’s concert was the 4th Annual for the Mission San Luis Rey and featured the Premier Brass & Singers from the San Diego Opera Chorus, who did not disappoint.

The congregation joined in with the performers singing several Christmas standards as the old French tune “Angels We Have Heard on High;” German Composer George Frederick Handel’s “Joy to the World;” and Franz Gruber’s and Joseph Mohr’s “Silent Night.” Always a very moving experience to say the least when many voices become one!

It should be noted that all the performers with the Premier Brass & Singers from the San Diego Opera Chorus, were outstanding. However, some notable and memorable performances stood out during this concert and included the vocal quartet of Cherylyn Larson (Soprano), Ava Liss (Mezzo-Sprano), Robert Larson (Tenor), and Cliff Derix (Bass-Baritone). The first moment involved the entire quartet as they made their dramatic entrance into the church. The Old Mission Church had become eerily quiet and the quartet opened with Benjamin Britten’s “Hodie Processional.” They entered from the back and made their way between the pews to the front of the church singing the chants so each guest in attendance would feel the importance of this event. It really set the stage for the rest of the concert.

The second involved Cliff Derix’s reading a quote of Shakespeare’s from “Hamlet.” Derix’s bass-baritone as he stood on the rear balcony and his vocal carried a rich, dark tone, and smooth delivery of “Hamlet” through the church. It was as though he was speaking to each guest, personally.

The third noteworthy presentation was the groups Tenor, Robert Larson; who performed the old German tune “Lo How A Rose.”   Looking across the open church I could see that Larson held the attention of the audience with the control of his voice and brought out a range of emotion in the listeners. Powerful stuff!

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The last notable performance was Soprano Cherylyn Larson’s operatic rendition of Adam Adolphe’s “O Holy Night.” This well-known Christmas carol is about the real meaning of Christmas and Larson’s performance was absolutely stunning.

The concert was concluded with a festive version of a holiday classic “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” by the Premier Brass and then the concert guests were invited to join the reception in the Sacred Garden of the mission where desserts were offered.san_luis_rey_concert_matt_lyons05

The Franciscan Friars and volunteers of the Olde Mission San Luis Rey have dedicated their lives to making the mission, Oceanside, and the world a better place to live and work in. They do a phenomenal job for all of us with events like the Christmas Concert and deserve a great deal of appreciation for protecting this historic structure and the Southwest culture. As the late Huell Howser would say: The San Luis Rey Mission is a “…True Part of California’s Gold.”

For those reading this, I would strongly encourage you to take your friends and family to this Christmas concert next year. Well worth it and the monies go to preserving a California treasure.

For more information about this Christmas event or other events at the Olde Mission San Luis Rey, just log on the mission website: http://www.sanluisrey.org/

About the Author: Matt Lyons has contributed to several area newspapers and national online media outlets as a freelance writer. He has written on topics that involve human & community interest as well as selected topics related to law enforcement. He is the Author of: Images of America: Oceanside Police Department, Arcadia Publishing 2006. Additionally, he dabbles with freelance digital photography using cell phone cameras. After retiring from the United States Marine Corps, he and his family made California their home. They have been living and working in the local area since 1997.