Nativity exhibit at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
to include piano performance by Jared Johnson
By Diane Kirk, Special to the Dallas Morning News
A flurry of events for the Christmas Season will take place in
Allen on December 5th and 6th. The City of Allen Christmas Tree
Lighting on Friday evening will open up a weekend of events and
celebration. On both Friday and Saturday, a Nativity Exhibit at
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Exchange, just
west of Alma, will welcome visitors. Residents of Allen and surrounding
communities are invited to come to the Nativity Exhibit to view
hundreds of depictions of the setting in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ
was born, and to hear Christmas music. Since the exhibit will be
open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
on Saturday, the exhibit might be visited on the way to or from
the other events in Allen on those two days. Admission is free.
Jared Johnson lives in Allen, and in 2007 released a CD of Christmas
piano music, entitled Christmas in the Key of J (on the Windmill
Records label). He will be playing piano at the City Tree Lighting,
and again the next day for one hour at the Nativity Exhibit. Jareds
selection of Christmas music includes arrangements of carols such
as Angels We Have Heard on High, Good Christian
Men, Rejoice, and Joy to the World. These arrangements
are marked by both respect for the original melodies and creative
elaboration around those melodies, with some exquisite introductions.
Jared is a native Texan and has played the piano since he was five
years old. He also played on drum line in high school and college;
his percussion background contributes to an especially strong use
of rhythm in his playing, and to an ability to play with great speed
when that is to advantage. His version of The Little Drummer
Boy, which he entitles Little Drummer Dude moves
along at a very swift pace, with his showing how much he can transfer
drumming techniques to his piano playing in a way that is entirely
suited to the piano. He brings out the instruments percussion
side with a lightness of touch that only heightens the melodic qualities.
All of his solo piano music has a contemporary feel, showing the
influence of pianists such as Jim Brickman and Jon Schmidt, and
several of the selections on his CD are arrangements of favorites
from recent decades: Do You Hear What I Hear?, Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and David Fosters
Grown-Up Christmas List, made popular by Natalie Cole
and Amy Grant. His original composition Snow Angels
is a light and airy piece, and draws from currents of contemporary
solo piano style with a sweet freshness.
Jared released his first CD, Piano Pop, in 2001. It quickly gained
momentum, eventually leading to an opportunity to perform in conjunction
with the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympics, and to other opportunities.
Several years passed after that debut album, and his plans to produce
another CD were still in the formative stages. Then, just after
the Christmas of 2006, tragedy struck Jareds family when his
brother-in-law James died very unexpectedly. At that time, Jared
had been working on some arrangements of Christmas music. His brother-in-law
had often asked him when he would be putting music together into
a new CD.
After James death, Jared began to work with more intensity
on assembling his music for a new album. In turning to his work
on the music, Jared was able to turn the emotion of his grief toward
the positive goal of finishing something that James had encouraged
him in doing, and also to turn to the hope, joy, and love of family
that is so much a part of Christmas. As he approached December 2007
with the music produced and available on CD, his music was a comfort
to his family as they approached the anniversary of his brother-in-laws
death. Christmas is a time of year when families tend to think of
loved ones, and the music James had so much encouraged was something
sweet to consider. As Jared plays his music for live audiences,
he will bring with him the joy of the music in its season, and the
comfort that it has been to him these past two years.
At the City Tree Lighting on Friday, his music will be part of
the program that starts at 7 p.m. The Plaza at 305 Century Parkway
will be open at 6:30 p.m. for those who will gather to view the
tree lighting and program. During the Nativity Exhibit at The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1324 West Exchange Parkway,
he will play the piano on Saturday evening for one hour beginning
at 5 p.m. Other musicians and choirs are scheduled to provide music
through the other nineteen hours of the exhibit.