A Christmas Cantata tells the Christmas story or Nativity story and is typically, though not always, comprised of classical music. At its essence the Christmas Cantata is music that tells a story, making it similar to an opera. The Christmas liturgy used in the cantata could incorporate the traditional, classical rendition of the birth of Jesus Christ, or it could take a more modern approach to the music. The true purpose of the Christmas Cantata is to engage and enlighten the congregation to the spirit of Christmas by fostering excitement and enthusiasm using the power of a musical experience.
The Classical Cantata
Enlist the church choir's most talented and classically trained voices to perform the Cantata during the Christmas liturgy. Select text and passages from the Bible---the Gospel of Luke is traditionally read during Christmas mass---to be sung during liturgy. Use classical music, such as violins, piano or organ and wind instruments to accompany the singers. Intermix joyous and celebratory songs of praise with the Christmas story compositions.
Children's Chiristmas Cantatas
Have the children of the congregation sing traditional Christmas songs, such as "Away in a Manger," "The Little Drummer Boy" and "We Three Kings," while several children take turns reading passages from the Bible to tell the Christmas story. The singing children can serve as soft background music, or they can sing the songs in between passages.
Take a more modern approach to the Christmas Cantata and invite members of the church to compose a Christmas story rap, inspired by the verses describing the events in the Bible. Add some musical accompaniment, such as the church organ, and have them perform the Christmas Cantata rap at the Christmas liturgy. For an added touch, have the participating rappers dress as the people in the Nativity scene, Mary, Joseph, Angel Gabriel and the Three Wise Men, and have each rap their own part.
In addition to the singing of the Christmas Cantata in whichever fashion or style you choose, add a visual element as well. Having a dancer perform in sequence with the music and words is an ideal way to enrapture and captivate the audience. Choose whichever style of dance best suits the mood of the Cantata and the selected music. Dance styles could range from contemporary, to ballet, to Broadway to spiritual or interpretive. Enlist a soloist or dance ensemble to perform. This will likely help to engage the audience as well as bring the words to life. The dancer's could dress as characters from the nativity, or simply be a fleet of dancing angels, which also compliments the Christmas theme and celebration.