The Coast News Group
James Drollinger conducts the St. Chares Borromeo Church Choir. The Christmas Concert at Mission San Luis Rey rung in the holidays and raised funds. Photo by Promise Yee

Concert held at mission during final phase of retrofitting

OCEANSIDE — The historic Mission San Luis Rey church set a magical backdrop to the second annual Christmas Concert held on Dec. 7. “It is beautiful that it’s in the historic church where music has been celebrated for 200 years,” Friar David Gaa said.

The concert allowed spectators to see the inside of the church that has only been open to the public on a limited basis since earthquake retrofitting efforts began a year ago.

Outside scaffolding braced the 6-foot-thick adobe walls of the church where supportive steel rods are being added.

Inside paintings and statues were removed for ongoing construction. This allowed spectators to focus on the church’s unique architecture.

“The mission church is built in the form of a cross,” Gaa said. “It’s the only one built like this.”

The wooden cupola in the center of the church provided perfect acoustics for performances by the St. Chares Borromeo Church Choir and the hauntingly beautiful LEGACY choral ensemble.

Final stages of retrofitting did not stop the second annual mission Christmas Concert. Earthquake retrofitting should be completed in January. Photo by Promise Yee

Both groups were conducted by James Drollinger and accompanied by piano and violin.

Audience sing-along songs were also included.

“It’s a great blend of traditional choir and carols,” Maureen Sullivan, Mission San Luis Rey director of events and marketing, said.

“Music is integral to celebrating the holidays,” she added. “It expresses the joy of the season.”

After the concert a dessert reception was held in the Sacred Garden. Christmas lights and candles decorated the intimate outdoor space, which is not usually open to the public.

“It’s a good way to begin the holiday season and a good way to reflect on Christmas,” Gaa said.

The event rung in the holidays and served as a fundraiser for a new sound system and lighting.

Sullivan said mission staff members are continually taking on new maintenance and renovation projects to keep up the 215-year-old church.

“We’re constantly assessing what we have and how we can preserve it,” she said.

The $3.1 million earthquake retrofit will be completed in January and the historic church will be reopened to the public.

The next major fundraiser and renovation project will be to repair three original fountains located in the courtyard adjacent to the church.