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Christmas story told from new angle

A sheep-disguised angel, a dragon and a speaking star temporarily invaded the Cathedral at John Brown University, in addition to the more familiar Nativity individuals.

The animated characters moved across the screen as members of The First Ornaments of Christmas opened the Christmas season at the University during Thursday’s chapel service. The group shared their non-traditional telling of the Christmas story through live music and poetry.

Bryce Napier, lead singer, created the presentation as a new look at an old story. The nine-member band, including former University students Josh Mitchael and Toby Wills on guitar, uses a unique style.

“The project combines classical-infused indie rock music, narration and accompanying animation,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

The First Ornaments of Christmas performed three times in northwest Arkansas during Dec. 2011. This is their second Christmas season to offer the production. They also released an album of their music on Thursday.

The full-length repertoire includes 11 songs, with bridges of narration in between. A simplistic poetry is maintained throughout.

Beginning with the birth of the Christmas star, the group tells the story from the viewpoint of an angel sent by God to protect the star in its journey to earth. The angel descends to earth to check the safety of Bethlehem for the coming of God’s Son.

After settling onto a tree and being surprised by a shepherd’s presence, the angel transforms for a time into the shape of a sheep. Joseph and Mary arrive, and the shepherd offers his humble abode to the pregnant couple.

A dragon, representing Satan, appears and conspires with Herod to destroy the Messiah as soon as he is born. The angel, returning to his natural form, fights the dragon off. The shining star brings the wise men, and the story comes to a close.

The University’s student reaction seemed positive overall, although some people remarked the group may have taken its creativity too far.

But for Cameron Heger, the group’s percussionist, that is part of the point. In an article by NWAonline last year, he explained the meaning of “The First Ornaments of Christmas,” which has the goal of looking more closely at the angel, the star and the shepherd.

“They are the quintessential ‘ornaments,’” he said. “We hang them on the tree every year, but we rarely stop to think about the story from their perspectives or really flesh out their roles in the story.”

To hear The First Ornaments of Christmas, visit their site at http://firstornamentsofchristmas.bandcamp.com/.