Robert Nance didn't join Heartland Sings members in song Sunday, yet the conductor nonetheless filled the Allen County Courthouse halls with a three-word refrain.
“Unique,” “uplifting” and “inspiring” were words Nance included in many of his song introductions during the one-hour concert, The Spirit of Christmas.
“Our goal is to make a memory that is unique, uplifting and inspiring,” Nance said at the start of the third and last show of the weekend.
The professional vocal ensemble has presented the holiday concert since 2014, although it shifted to an on-demand video format last year because of the coronavirus.
Signs encouraging social distancing and mask-wearing at the downtown landmark were reminders Sunday that the pandemic is still raging.
Heartland Sings is thankful for those observing commonsense safety precautions, said Karl Behrens, board chairman.
“We are thrilled to be able to gather in person once again this year,” he said during welcoming remarks.
Judge Fran Gull of Allen County Superior Court encouraged the matinee audience to sit back, relax and enjoy the performance in “the people's courthouse.”
“Beautiful music, exceptional surroundings and superb acoustics combine to create one of the most unique holiday experiences in the region,” Gull said. “How fortunate that we are all able to be here this afternoon.”
As in previous years, the audience occupied three floors of the courthouse rotunda. Each level offered seating, but some on the top floor opted to peer over the circular ledge for a better view of the singers below.
The artists bowed to a standing ovation after renditions of songs including “Away in a Manger,” “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and “Silent Night.”
Travis Deleon didn't regret his decision to buy a ticket after seeing an advertisement Saturday night. The Fort Wayne man said the experience gave him an opportunity to reflect on the holiday season, “giving thanks to God and Jesus and the meaning of life.”
“It was awesome,” he said. “I wanted to go dancing.”
Natacha Sanz-Caballero, a city resident originally from Spain, appreciated Heartland Sings' rendition of “Alegrķa.” She said it's a popular Spanish Christmas carol.
“Oh, wow, that's so nice,” Sanz-Caballero said, describing her reaction to that surprising song choice.
Sanz-Caballero attended the concert with her son Matthew Anderson, who is in town for the holidays. The Californian said he likes being back in cold weather, but the chill outside wasn't the only reason why he had some shivers Sunday.
“I got goosebumps every song,” Anderson said.