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Songs of the season to be featured at concert

Nothing puts me in the holiday mood more than hearing Christmas music. Songs and music are such a big part of the Christmas holiday. Here's an opportunity to hear seasonal music and song and even to sing along.

Westminster United Methodist Church will have a Christmas concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, in the church.

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The hour-and-a-half program will feature the Westminster United Methodist Church Chancel Choir, with guest harpist Jacqueline Pollauf and church organist Peggy Brengle.

An expanded choir of almost 40 voices will join together with the delicate sounds of harp and the power and majesty of the organ to proclaim the birth of the Messiah. The concert will include a singalong, new arrangements of familiar carols, and modern and diverse Christmas anthems.

Gary Van Essen, director of music at the church, said one of the choir pieces is a South African Christmas anthem called "Come Colors Rise," and he spoke of a beautiful harp piece called "Angels Carol."

"We are doing a medley of Christmas carols as well as solo harp music and solo organ music," Van Essen said. "We have paired a variety of well-known and newer compositions and have a nice variety of sound. You get a lot of different kinds of Christmas music all together in one show. We will also have congregational songs so people can sing along."

Van Essen said this is the last show in the church's 2014 concert series. "We started the concert series three years ago," he said. "Since I've been the music director [since 2010] this is our first Christmas show."

Van Essen said their concert series has been drawing between 100 and 200 people and he hopes this one draws their largest crowd.

"I think the Christmas story has a lot of emotion in it naturally with the birth of the baby. And the way the story unfolds is emotional and personal," he said. "Music helps bridge the gap between the emotion and the word."

This concert is free, open to the public and requires no tickets. A freewill offering will be received.

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The church is at 165 E. Main St., Westminster.

For more information, email Van Essen at g.vanessen@wumcmd.org or call the church at 410-848-8325.

Santa at breakfast

Head over to St. Benjamin's Lutheran Church in Westminster for a pancake breakfast between 7 and 10 a.m. Dec. 20 and meet Santa while you are there.

The menu includes all-you-can-eat regular and buckwheat pancakes, sausage, eggs, home-fried potatoes, biscuits, sausage gravy, applesauce and a drink for the price of $7 for adults and $4 for children 12 and younger.

"We will also have a special Kids Zone where we'll offer fun foods just for kids," said Kris McMasters, coordinator for fundraising at the church. "We asked a couple of our [church] kids what they'd like to eat at a pancake breakfast. They said, 'Chocolate milk, Pop-Tarts and doughnuts — things our parents don't let us eat.' So we went out with a list to get the foods kids really want, and some items were donated," she said. This is included in the breakfast price.

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"As a special treat, we'll have jolly Santa visit and our very own youth group will be available to wrap your presents, too," McMasters said. "Santa will be there from 8 to 10 a.m. to meet with kids and find out what they want for Christmas," she said.

"Feel free to bring presents to be wrapped while you eat," McMasters said, noting that wrapping is for a donation. "The youth group will use funds they raise for a Youth Quake event coming up in January. It's a regional trip, a religious gathering of kids. It was in Annapolis last year," she said.

McMasters said proceeds of the breakfast will go to the church's general operating fund.

"We host about five pancake breakfasts a year, but this is our first time with Santa," McMasters said. "We usually get a pretty good crowd and it's a lot of fun. Some people come back over and over again and we have a good time," she said.

The church is at 700 Krider's Cemetery Road, Westminster.

For more information, visit http://www.stbenslutheran.org or call 410-848-3311.

Pancake breakfast

Meadow Branch Church of the Brethren will have an all-you-can-eat, old-fashioned pancake breakfast from 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at the church.

In addition to pancakes, look for scrambled eggs, sausage, home fries, hominy, pudding, sausage gravy, stewed apples and beverages at cost of $8 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and free to kids 5 and younger.

There will be a table with crafts for sale and a table with baked goods for sale, too.

The church is at 818 Old Taneytown Road, Westminster.

For more information, call 410-848-7478.

Lois Szymanski covers Finksburg, Gamber, Pleasant Valley, Reese, Sandymount, Silver Run, Smallwood, Union Mills and Westminster. To contact her, call 410-346-7321 or email loisszymanski@hotmail.com.

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