For 25 years Mack McKibben has been working on bringing an idea to life. He has tinkered, toiled and tried out different elements.
Then in 2010, he spent three years running McKibben Music on the Square and giving lessons to Newton County’s aspiring musicians. This venture didn’t deter him from continuing to work on his play. Or musical. Or idea. It really was all of those. But mostly it was his story. His Christmas story. A story about a community at the holidays.
And that is exactly how “O Come Ya’ll to Covington” started, and continued.
McKibben’s Christmas story, which will be performed Dec. 20, 21 and 22 at 7 p.m. at Covington First United Methodist happens every year in Covington thanks to community members making it possible.
“I think it’s something that people at that time of the year are looking for,” McKibben said. “To me, it’s my favorite time of year, although a lot of people get sad when they see Christmas coming but I think it is something that can bring a glimmer of hope to somebody.”
Seven years ago Doug Gilreath, senior pastor at Covington First United Methodist Church wasn’t looking for much, but was just visiting the store his two children came to for music lessons. While Gilreath was there, McKibben was at his piano working on his Christmas story.
Girleath wondered what McKibben was working on, and the life-long musician explained his vision of his Christmas story and how he has just been working on it throughout all those years.
A few days later Gilreath reached out to McKibben and said the church, at 1113 Conyers Street, agreed to host his event.
McKibben, who doesn’t attend that church, then had no choice but to finish his story.
“I thought about that move “The Candidate” with Robert Redford and at the end of it he was elected and the last words he said was “Now what do I do”.
Well, McKibben had his Robert Redford moment, and had to put together a stage play with a large choir at the center of it.
After putting out an all-call bulletin, McKibben found 40-or-so people to be in the choir, got some actors, such as Andy Irwin, Kalie and Keith Davis, his nephew Pete Hall and his son Micah, to join the fray.
“The first year I was just amazed at how it came together and how everything fell right into place,” McKibben said. “It was like it was a divine appointment with Doug coming in and inviting us to host it.”
The story, which lasts around an hour and 10 minutes centers around a choir practicing for a Christmas Cantata and when they get to a certain song, a change occurs, as the Archangel Michael watches on. Christmas carols, hymns and contemporary music by the likes of Peter Gabriel, Faith Hill and Stevie Wonder feature throughout.
“It’s a comedy and it has songs that tells a story with song,” McKibben said. “There’s a choir, a duo and solos. It’s a comedy musical where you’d be laughing one moment and crying the next.
“For what it’s worth, I think it’s something that brings a glimmer of hope.”
McKibben has put on the free play for seven years, and it has been a capacity crowd almost every year.
Tickets are required to get a seat but at no charge. Tickets can be picked up at McKibben Music , 1118 Monticello Street, or Covington First United Methodist.
“I would encourage people to come as soon as they can,” McKibben said. “It has become a tradition. To me, it’s a traditional thing for a lot of the people in our community.”