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Musical ‘All is Calm’ based on Christmas Truce of 1914

STERLING — One New York theater critic called it “Hands-down, the most emotionally moving Christmas show I’ve ever seen” and a British critic said, “One of the top live events for Christmas in North America.” The show being heralded is “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” The Sterling Community Theatre Troupe is joining Sterling College Theatre in presenting this unique production this year. 

The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Dec. 9 and 10, and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11. “All Is Calm” earns the description “unique” because it is an all-male, a capella musical which blends traditional Christmas carols with World War I songs along with historical records and personal reflections of this unusual historic event. 

A cast of 12 men will bring the musical production to life including one high school student, five college students and six community members. The cast includes Sterling High student Josiah Watney, Sterling High alum Caleb Brownlee, Sterling College students Jake Pieplow, Bryson Brownlee, and Will Dutton, all from Sterling, and Robbie Stansbury from Lyons. 

Sterling community members in the show include Larry Brownlee, Bob Brownlee, Seth Svaty, Mark Clark, and Garrett George. Jason Parr, Sterling native now living in Kansas City, will also be part of the cast. The music director for the show is Clark Comley, Sterling High School vocal music director. Dennis Dutton is directing the production. 

This a capella musical documents the true, historic event of First World War on Christmas Eve 1914. At dawn, only months into the war, after hearing and trading Christmas carols across the trenches, a German soldier crossed the lines of the Western front into “No-man’s-land” singing “Stile Nacht” (“Silent Night”). Seeing that he was unarmed, Allied soldiers eventually did the same. They ended up meeting in the middle where they exchanged gifts of puddings and cigarettes, sang songs, played a little soccer, and together buried their dead.

“All Is Calm” was written by Peter Rothstein for the famed “Cantus” men’s a capella singing group from the Twin Cities. His script is based on the actual letters of men from various regiments, brigades, and infantries who lived it. Along with commentary on the incredible events of that Christmas Eve in 1914, the letters also describe, in vivid detail, the enthusiasm of the young soldiers as they leave for the war, evocative descriptions of their surroundings, the thrill of receiving parcels from home, the devastating loss of friends, and the making of new ones across enemy lines -- if only for a short time.

The songs range from ballads, traditional folk songs, patriotic songs, and Christmas carols. Included are a Scottish folk song “Will Ye Go to Flanders?”, an English traditional song “Pack up you Troubles” and traditional Christmas songs such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “O Tannenbaum.” Thirty-four songs in all are presented in the show which is just over an hour in length. 

“This is easily the most musically challenging project we’ve ever done,” said Dutton. “I would not have attempted this without Clark Comley’s expertise. We have been rehearsing on Sundays since September and now are working into regular rehearsals.

“‘All Is Calm’ is also one of the most rewarding pieces we’ve ever done, too. I think all the guys have really enjoyed the deep dive we’ve had with the music and the emotion of this unusual show. We are excited to share it with people,” Dutton said. 

Tickets for “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” are $10 for adults and $5 for students and will be available at the door before each performance. The show will be at the Sterling High School Theatre.