OGDEN -- Area residents of all faiths are invited to attend the Ogden Institute of Religion's 35th annual Christmas Spectacular at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8, at the Weber State University Austad Auditorium in the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts.
The program this year will center on the theme "I Heard the Bells ... A Christmas Hope," telling the story of a family that is struggling at Christmastime and finds hope through the Christmas message.
"I love how family-oriented it is," said Bailee Paxman, of Riverton, who is a member of the institute's Choralaires choir, which will perform in the show.
She said the Christ-centered message is "extremely important, especially this time of year."
Paxman pointed to a difficult economy and stressful financial conditions. She said Christ can bring happiness even in such times.
"It's such a happy time of year," she said. "We should do everything we can to focus on the happy things this time of year ... to turn to the spirit of Christmas."
Sam Howe, of Ogden, a sophomore studying medical laboratory science, said the Christmas Spectacular offers life-changing moments each year.
He said he was invited to a show a few years ago and it was so much fun, he later tried out for the institute's auditioned choir. He has since tried out to be a folk dancer and will perform as a folk dancer in this year's show.
"It definitely stood out to me," he said. "There were awesome dances, and the choir performed powerful spiritual numbers. It made me want to be a part of what they were doing."
Joe Favero is in his second semester at Weber State University and is the student publicity coordinator for the event.
The Ogden resident is a returned missionary studying pre-dentistry.
"What I've really enjoyed is helping everyone catch on to the spirit of Christmas," he said. "Christ is the hope of all things."
He said the music in the Spectacular is very powerful.
The Choralaires choir member said his mother sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which has a well-attended Christmas program in Salt Lake City every year.
"This provides an opportunity for more of a local taste," he said. "I grew up right around the neighborhood. It was fun to go to."
This year's show will features nearly 225 young adults from the institute Chorale, Choralaires, and Folk Dancers.
The Christmas Spectacular highlights choral music, dancing, drama, small ensembles and soloists.
Traditional holiday favorites, including "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "The First Noel," "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "Joy to the World," will be performed.
The Institute sponsors two choirs: Chorale is a nonauditioned choir of 100 members.
The audition choir, Choralaires, consists of 90 members. The Choralaires specializes in the performance of sacred, inspirational pieces. It also performs a few choreographed or comedic numbers in this annual Christmas Spectacular.
"The folk dances are intricately choreographed and beautifully outfitted with authentic costumes from around the world," states a news release from the institute.
In the show, 26 dancers will perform a variety of dances, including their signature clog.
"The Institute Christmas Spectacular has always been an event that brings the Spirit of Christmas into each heart," said Gary Delozier, folk dance adviser. "It is a great way to begin the month of December and a fun-filled family activity."
This year's show follows a modern-day family, each member easily distracted by the many goings-on of the holiday and life in general.
As Christmas Day draws near, the family is reminded of how the ringing bells share the true meaning and hope found through Jesus Christ.
" 'I Heard the Bells ... A Christmas Hope' will entertain, inspire and convey the sacred message of Christmas," states the news release. "All ages will be captivated with the colorful folk dancers and delight in the wonderful music of the Choralaires and Chorale.
"The entertaining storyline of the family and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 'Christmas Bells' completes the show. Be prepared to enjoy 90 minutes of wholesome, five-star family entertainment. We hope you will join us for this exciting performance."
A short pre-show will welcome guests as they arrive. This will begin 15 minutes before to each performance. Participants are encouraged to arrive early so they won't miss the pre-show.
Tickets are a suggested donation of $5 for adults; $4 for seniors 60 and older; $3 for children 6 to 17; and $15 for families. For the matinee, suggested donations are $12 for families.
Current Institute students ages 18 to 30 may pick up their free student ticket at the Institute office by noon Dec. 7.
Special ticket donations for those with current military identification are $3 for adults and seniors; $3 for children 6 to 17; and $10 for families.
For more information, stop by the Institute building, 1302 Edvalson St., across from the WSU campus; visit the Institute's website at www.ldsces.org/ogden; or call the Institute office at 801-621-1800.