Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Joyous Reprise: Joy to the Burg returns to offer musical comfort, fight homelessness

Christyan Seay

What do you do when a pandemic nixes your holiday concert?

You make adjustments.

For instance, “Joy to the Burg” will be different this year, but still will be devoted to spreading joy and strengthening community.

Now in its second season, the community artist program—which raises funds for homelessness programs provided by Christian Churches United of the Tri-County Area—is more vital than even before, said Darrel Reinford, CCU’s executive director.

“The program especially benefits vulnerable populations, like people on the street or families who have lost their jobs and housing during the pandemic, to get back on their feet,” he said.

Joy to the Burg features an album/CD of Christmas songs by local musicians and bands, as it did last year.

“People in the arts are particularly suffering financially,” said Sheldon Jones, founder and executive director of the program. “But the music community of central Pennsylvania has united around this cause with tremendous excitement and enthusiasm.”

This year, 17 musicians and bands will perform the songs, all in the public domain. And this year, in lieu of a live concert, “Good Day PA” will feature a special “Joy to the Burg” show on Dec. 15 from 10 to 11 a.m., featuring a mix of live interviews and stories with pre-recorded band performances.

Last year, Joy to the Burg —combining proceeds of the album and concert ticket sales — raised nearly $24,000 for Christian Churches United. CCU used part of the funding to establish a new women’s shelter, which opened the week of Christmas in the Grace Methodist Church in downtown Harrisburg.

Building a shelter is only the first step, according to CCU, which supports people facing homelessness, poverty, crisis situations and incarceration.

“You also need to make sure they’re safe,” said Reinford. “A lot of planning goes into it.”

To serve the homeless and populations at risk, CCU partners with churches, businesses, concerned neighbors and local government partners.

One such partner is the Rotary Club of Harrisburg, a sponsor of Joy to the Burg. The Rotary is involved in the community artistic program on two levels this year, lending financial support to CCU but also music.

Rotary president James Good is part of a band called the Goods. With a repertoire of country music, bluegrass and blues, he plays dobro and steel guitar, while his wife Karen plays keyboards. The band will be singing and playing “Children, Go Where I Send Thee,” an old spiritual that James heard as a child.

“Being part of Joy to the Burg seemed a natural fit with the Rotary’s commitment to service, to make the community a better place,” he said.

Each winter, the club provides volunteers who help staff two winter overnight shelters—one for men, and one for women—run by CCU.

Another song on the album is “Ave Maria,” as arranged by composer Franz Schubert. It will be sung by tenor Christyan Seay, accompanied on keyboard by Caleb Flick.

“Schubert’s Ave Maria has become a staple during the Christmas holiday season, since the text translates the announcement to the Virgin Mary of the coming Christ child,” said Seay, the artistic director of the Capital Area Music Association, a community choral organization that performs music of African American composers and African American culture. “I love the music of this composer and thought this would be a good musical contribution to this project.”

Another CCU partner is Karns Foods, which will have the Joy to the Burg CD available for sale at several locations within its stores, including the customer service desk and select checkout registers.

“Joy to the Burg is filled with wonderful seasonal sounds, but the most important thing is that folks can pick up the recording,” said Andrea Karns, vice president of marketing and sales. “Now more than ever, as a community, we need to get creative, join together as partners and find solutions to help one another out.”

In addition to the CD, patrons can buy drop cards with a code on the back for downloading.

Between the Christmas music and the help Joy to the Burg gives to those in need, the pandemic cannot dampen the holiday spirit.

“It is always a joy to be in the company of my musical colleagues doing what feeds our souls—making music,” Seay said. “The needs in the coming year will be greater, and, thus, we will do our part to share resources and provide relief.”

For more information about Joy to the Burg, visit On Dec. 15, “Good Day PA” will air a special “Joy to the Burg” program on ABC 27 from 10 to 11 a.m.

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