Sign language Christmas concert takes the stage in Ocean Springs

(Photo source: The Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education)
(Photo source: The Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Even John Lennon may not have imagined this: A concert where no words are spoken, yet the lyrics are delivered with such power and beauty, they produce smiles and tears.

The Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education in Ocean Springs will present A Show of Hands – a Christmas concert in which performers interpret the words of well-known, recorded music through the use of American Sign Language, on Saturday, December 11th at 3pm at the Mary C.

"The first thing people think when they hear about us is that we perform for the deaf or hard of hearing," says director Jerry Buisson, an assistant professor in USM's Department of Speech and Hearing in Hattiesburg. "And we do, because they enjoy music, too. But our main focus is to build an understanding for hearing people toward deafness and sign language through entertainment and information. It's more than people just standing up there signing. It involves dance, in that the body is used to convey words and feelings. We lip sync and have costume changes. We even do audience participation."

"I know it sounds strange to someone who hasn't been to a show. But when you're watching it, it brings songs home ... it increases the depth of their meaning. The first show I went to, I was surprised that it was so beautiful - and that my kids (Kaliq, 9, and Kyla, 7) were so attracted to it," says Tammy Greer, associate professor of psychology at USM. "It's beautiful the way the information is conveyed ... the facial expressions, movements, gestures."

The sad truth is that this may be the last year that A Show of Hands will be performing at the Mary C, or anywhere for that matter. The program at the University of Southern Mississippi that houses the student show choir, the Education of the Deaf teacher training program, is in danger of being cut from the academic offerings at USM.

The program is the only Deaf Ed undergraduate program in a three-state area. If the program is cut, A Show of Hands may be disbanded with the show on December 11th at the Mary C being one of the group's last performances.

Audience members at the December 11th performance will see songs signed in American Sign Language (ASL) as music by a variety of performing artists is played. Songs by Whitney Houston (Do You Hear What I Hear?), Mariah Carey (Jesus O What a Wonderful Child), Anne Murray (Winter Wonderland), and The TransSiberian Orchestra (Christmas Canon – performed in the dark with black lights and white gloves) and more will be signed to help bring the Christmas spirit.

Tickets are general admission, just $5, and can be purchased at the door. The concert begins at 3pm at the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education located at 1600 Government Street in Ocean Springs.

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