WBU children's opera presenting Amahl

PLAINVIEW – Originally debuting in 1951, Amahl and the Night Visitors became a staple of television Christmas programming throughout the 50s and 60s. Next week, Wayland Baptist University’s School of Music brings the beloved story to the stage in Harral Memorial Auditorium as a children’s opera performance.

The School of Music’s opera program, in conjunction with the Children’s Chorus of Plainview, will present six performances of the 50-minute show, beginning Monday and Tuesday as they perform for area school children. Show times are 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. as area school districts bring their students in to see the performance. The show will be presented to the general public at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday evening, Nov. 20-21. The general public performances will also feature an orchestra. Admission to the performances is free and open to the public.

Amahl is the story of a widow and her crippled son who are visited one night by three Magi following a star. Through the course of the night, Amahl is healed due to his belief in the coming Christ child.

“It promises to be a very touching show,” said Jeff Kensmoe, director of the opera program at Wayland.

The large number of participants in the opera has been broken into two performing groups. Children’s Chorus of Plainview members Peyton Thornton and Luke Brown take the lead role of Amahl and Wayland students Rebecca Ballinger and Alex Hall fill the role as his mother. Ballinger, who has been involved with the children’s opera in the past, said this is a new experience for her.

“This is a whole new level of getting work with the kids in the actual show,” she said. “They are so true to their feelings and you can really see it. It inspires you to be better at what you do because they are so naturally good at it.”

Ballinger said channeling the maternal instinct on stage was difficult for Hall and herself.

“It’s just so heartfelt because of the situation they are in,” she said. “We really have to think about what it would be like to live in that time without a husband, no job, no money and every day, you don’t know whether or not your child will be fed or clothed.”

“There is also the dynamic between Amahl, who is fond of telling stories, and his mother. Does she believe him, does she not believe him?” Hall added. “It reminds me of how my brother was with my mom … and I’m sure I was the same way.”

Members of the Children’s Chorus will perform a ballet on stage, choreographed by Kensmoe’s wife, Natalie Collins, music teacher at Lakeside Elementary. The Chorus is directed by Debbie Flournoy, a music professor at Wayland, and Wayland students Leslie Delgado and Joel Duarte serve as assistant directors of the Chorus.

Performing for the Children’s Chorus in group one during both shows Monday and on Thursday evening are: Payton Thornton as Amahl, Chris Askins, Kelee Askins, Levi Brown, Luke Brown, Karis Cartenseen, Claire Daily, Abby Drake, Matthew Holloway, Micah Martinez, Orlando Quintana and Lauren Troope. Group two, performing on Tuesday and Friday, consists of: Luke Brown as Amahl, Levi Brown, Cassandra Delgado, Catherine Delgado, Kalli Dubose, Meagan Harp, Matthew Holloway, Kamren Smock, Joshua Snellgrove, Payton Thornton, Robert Torres and McKinley Whalen.