By Terrah Baker
As a Christian and an American, Bryce Napier has heard the story behind Christmas many times in his life. But one day he had some ideas of the familiar story in a not-so-familiar way.
“I wanted to do a Christmas story that focused on the spiritual warfare that was discussed in the Bible, and the characters I was seeing in my head,” he said.
Characters like the star of Bethlehem, the angels and even a dragon that helps visually represent the spiritual struggle against evil forces.
Using his vision, and the creativity and help of more than 15 friends and family, he put together what his creative team called The First Ornaments of Christmas — a show that is now in its second year of traveling around Northwest Arkansas.
It’s a live, multimedia project combining live indie-rock music synced to animation illustrating the story being sung. The project began in August 2011 and resulted in three live performances last December, with several more coming this year and a studio album version of the performance. It’s been a collaborative effort between local NWA musicians, illustrators, graphic designers and video editors.
“The nativity story I grew up reading doesn’t need any elaboration and it would still be beautiful, but I wanted to do it in a way that I thought was beautiful, and in a way that could illustrate my feelings on the event,” Napier said.
The drummer of the group, Cameron Heger, said he wanted to be a part of the project because he knew Napier was a talented musician through his experience studying piano performance in college. Because Napier had a background in classical and rockmusic, Heger said he knew the project was in good hands musically. He didn’t know Napier was a talented drawer as well.
“He showed me designs of an angel and star and planets and I was like ‘whatever this is, it’s really cool.’ I knew it was going to be really interesting music and visuals and a really unusual thing from the get-go,” Heger said.
Napier said he began drawing a shepherd and then an abstract idea for a star, using the skills he learned studying art at the University of Memphis. A fellow illustrator, Craig Ford, art teacher at Lincoln Junior High School helped Napier by working on concept art and eventually the animation pieces that became a part of the project.
Although the story focuses on that of Jesus Christ from the Bible, Napier said he hopes anyone who can enjoy art and collaboration could be entertained. And anyone can see it live and free: 7 p.m. Friday, outdoors Downtown Rogers; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers; and for $5, 9 p.m. Dec. 23 at George’s Majestic Lounge, ages 18 and older. Listen and download the music at firstornamentsofchristmas.bandcamp.com/album/the-first-ornaments-of-christmas.