By Deb Everts

The Christmas Cantata choir, comprised of residents of the Salamanca and Ellicottville area, will present two performances on Sunday, Dec. 17 that organizers hope will express the true meaning of Christmas.

The first performance will be presented in the First United Congregational Church, 134 Broad Street in Salamanca, at 3 p.m. A second performance will take place at the Holy Name of Mary Church, 22 Jefferson Street in Ellicottville, at 7 p.m.

This year’s production will be “The Season of Praise,” by Joseph M. Martin, which portrays the Christmas story of the birth of Christ and events that led up to it through song and narrations.

Director Annette Ieda said the 40-member choir has been learning the music for this year’s production and practicing in a series of seven rehearsals on Sundays since Oct. 29. She said members must attend five of the seven rehearsals to participate.

The choir will be accompanied by Nikki White on the piano and Courtney Robinson on the flute.

Ieda said proceeds from a free-will offering taken at each production will benefit area food pantries in Ellicottville and Salamanca. A reception will follow each performance.

“Please come and share this event with us,” she said. “You will be glad you did.”

According to Ieda, Nancy Rogan is a big helper from the church in Ellicottville and she’s been a part of the cantata since its beginning. She said Wendy O’Neil Hill of Salamanca organizes the choir.

“I joined the Ellicottville choir about seven years ago and then Marcia Barlow, who was choir director, got ill and asked me to direct it,”                                                                                                                                                      her was nice because it made the Christmas choir bigger. She said people come from all over the area, not just from Salamanca and Ellicottville. They alternate the rehearsals, so they are practicing at each church every other week.

“It’s just a wonderful thing for the community to give back and it’s the real spirit of Christmas because we are always singing about the Christmas story,” she said.

Ieda said the choir started in the United Presbyterian Church in Ellicottville a number of years ago, and Rogan was the director prior to her taking it over. At the time, Salamanca had their own cantata, but they called her to direct about three years ago. Because she was already directing the Ellicottville Cantata, she had to turn them down, but welcomed the Salamanca group to join them.

“That’s how all the members got together to do the Christmas cantata and we’ve been doing it together for about three years,” she said.

Ieda is a former music teacher at Lake Shore Central School in Angola, where she taught and directed a high school choir, as well as elementary-level vocal and instrumental. A member of several orchestras and choirs for about 32 years, she currently plays in several orchestras including the Orchard Park Symphony, Southern Tier Symphony, Jamestown Symphony and Wellsville Symphony.

Her family has a string quartet. She said they play together and have given concerts as a family every year for 30 years.