60 Years and Counting
In the fall of 1957, Clyde Henson, then senior pastor of Bethel Temple, was discussing the upcoming Christmas program with church member Bill Forbes. “What are we going to do with the music department this year?” asked Pastor Henson. Searching for an answer, Bill retorted, “Why don’t we hang them from a Christmas tree?” They both chuckled. However, before the day was over they had a balsa model of a tree in their hands and a dream in their hearts. In December of that same year, standing atop a somewhat shaky wooden scaffolding, the very first Singing Christmas Tree was presented at the Governor’s Hall, located on the old State Fairgrounds.
A brand-new and much sturdier steel structure was designed and completed in time for the Tree in 1959. That year, the production was performed in the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, where it was to remain for the next sixteen years. To accommodate the growing audience, the venue was then moved to the Sacramento Community Center. In 1979, Glen D. Cole became senior pastor. Pastor Cole’s desire was to see the Tree performed at the church. The decision was made to bring the Tree home.
Over the years a number of extremely talented conductors have directed the Tree. Each has lent his own unique style and creativity to this wonderful presentation. They are: Dave Peters (1957), Earl Johnson (1958-1964), Jory Walden (1965-1969), Ken Nichols (1970-1972), Dee Eastman (1973), Dr. Forrest Beiser (1974-1975), Eddie Reece (1976-1978), Bob Sapp (1979-1986), Paul Ferrin (1987-1991), Randy Quackenbush (1992-1999), Mark Carlson (2000-2005), Rob Sapp (2006-2013) and Ryan Bunbury (2014-2015). In 2016, Jimmie Adams became the conductor and Director of the Singing Christmas Tree.
Each year hundreds of volunteers spend thousands of hours preparing and rehearsing for the Singing Christmas Tree. They assume various roles – singers and musicians, dramatists and dancers, set builders and costume designers. To each of them the Singing Christmas Tree is an opportunity to honor the One whose birth we observe, and to bring this remarkable Christmas story to life!