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. Jared’s 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 instrument’s 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 Foster’s “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 Jared’s 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-law’s 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.