Newsong's annual concert in Marion is a Christmas tradition – The Southern

January 15, 2022
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For Laurie Chapman and her family, the Christmas season does not really begin until she hears “O, Holy Night,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “The Christmas Shoes” and “What a Wonderful World.”
Christian band Newsong performs during a Very Merry Christmas Tour concert in Marion. The annual concert is a holiday tradition for many area fans.
But not just any version or recording of the holiday songs. The numbers have to be presented in a particular way: live at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center, early in December and as part of Newsong’s Very Merry Christmas Tour.
For the Chapmans from Marion and hundreds of others from across the region, the Very Merry Christmas Tour is as much a part of Christmas as presents, trees and holiday lights.
“It’s an extended family tradition. We started going years ago as a way to kick off Christmas together,” Chapman said. “It is a huge celebration and it is indescribable. If you haven’t experienced it, it is like rolling up joy and warmth, love, comfort and peace in a cozy blanket. For us, it is Christmas.”
The annual concert tour first stopped in Southern Illinois in 2009, and each year features longtime Contemporary Christian group Newsong. With the exception of last year because of COVID-19 concerns, Newsong has appeared in Marion each Christmas season, bringing a different collection of Christian performers with them each year.
The tour returns to Marion Saturday. National top-selling band Big Daddy Weave will join Newsong on stage, according to Laura Miles of WBVN-FM, which sponsors the concert.
The concert format and songs only change slightly year-to-year. Chapman said the familiarity and tradition of the performance is part of its appeal.
“It’s a great mixture of traditional Christmas, secular Christmas and some of the bands’ other hits,” she said.
A favorite part of the show is the performance of “The Christmas Shoes,” a song which inspired a made-for-television film starring Rob Lowe. Each year, WBVN identifies a local boy to join Newsong on stage to sing a portion of the song.
“How many times can you hear ‘The Christmas Shoes’ and cry?” Chapman asked. “But I do. I cry every year.”
The station also solicits local youth drummers to play with the band during an energetic version of “Little Drummer Boy.”
“Newsong really likes to incorporate the community within the concert with ‘The Christmas Shoes’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy.’ It’s really unique and special,” she added.
“The concert really has become a tradition for families and generations of those families,” Miles said, adding she is thrilled to have the concert back after missing last year.
“We’re excited that we get to be together for Christmas again. This is about getting the message of Christmas out there and encouraging people,” she said.
She said the event is especially important this year.
“This is the way it is supposed to be,” Miles added. “It’s been such a hard year; so many people have dealt with a lot of really, really hard things. This is a night of encouragement, worship and a night when we can all come together and celebrate Christmas.”
Plus it is just tradition for fans.
Chapman explained, “For us, it is the specific event that kicks off the entire season. There’s the concert and then it’s ‘go’ for Christmas.”
The Southern’s fourth segment of “The Southern Illinois 100,” items that are synonymous with Southern Illinois.
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Christian band Newsong performs during a Very Merry Christmas Tour concert in Marion. The annual concert is a holiday tradition for many area fans.
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