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Music Groups Usher in the Holidays

Over a thousand students, staff, faculty and community members packed into Union Church on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 3, for “A Celebration of Christmas 2006.” The two-and-a-half hour concert, presented by the Berea College music department and the Campus Christian Center, held something for everyone with performances by 10 student choral and instrumental groups and by the BC Faculty-Staff Choir. The audience also participated by singing traditional carols throughout the evening.

BC Wind Ensemble spreads cheer

After the audience was in place (due to the popularity of the event, a few latecomers had to stand in the back) the BC Recorder Ensemble struck up their enchanting tones and performed several numbers from the German Christmas Chorale “From Heaven Above.” They were followed by the large faculty staff choir, which did three songs, including “E la don don, verges Maria,” a vigorous Spanish carol with solos by professors Shan Ayers (bass) and Mario Nakazawa (tenor), and staff members Janet Garrison (alto) and Chris Lakes (baritone).

The accomplished BC Concert Choir and Chamber Singers were heard throughout the evening. For “Ave Maria,” the first number they performed, the chamber singers went to the back of the balcony section while the concert choir was divided into two sections in the front. Professor Stephen Bolster was like a ringmaster in a three ring circus as he turned this way and that to direct his musicians. The stereophonic harmonies made one participant feel she was “opening the doors of heaven” with its beauty.

Two instrumental quartets followed. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “Joy to the World” was played by women on saxophones and a medley featuring “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” by ladies on clarinets.

The concert choir then sang “Mary’s Magnificat” with the beautiful “My soul doth magnify the Lord …” lines sung in angelic tones by soprano Rebekah Phillippi. The soloists on “Stille Nacht” were Rebecca Ogburn and Jessica Slaton. The group ended up with the sprightly “Make We Merry.”

Attention then shifted back to the floor of the auditorium where the BC Wind Ensemble delighted the crowd with a series of lively carols in “A Christmas Festival.” The brass section then got their chance to shine in “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” Director Charles Turner and several of his musicians then donned Santa hats for the percussionists’ time in the spotlight with “Sleigh Ride.” The sleigh bells, horses’ hooves and cracking whip sounds made the entire audience feel like they were along for the ride.

A more reverential mood then descended as the chamber singers lifted their voices in “Susanni,” a German carol, and “A la nanita nana,” a Spanish carol, accompanied on guitar by student Marty Edwards. They finished with the haunting tones of “Coventry Carol,” a 16th century English song with the repeating phrase “By, by, lully, lullay.”

Dr. Loretta Reynolds, college chaplain, put a pause in the music by reading the Christmas story from St. Luke. She was followed by the BC Women’s Chorus who sang two songs about the Virgin Mary and Jesus’ lowly birth in “Christmas Lullaby” and “Ave Maria.” They completed their set with the crowd-pleasing “Carol of the Bells” sung without accompaniment.

Next two vocalists wowed the audience as they were accompanied by the BC Jazz Ensemble. Jessica French, dressed in glamorous fashion with a black evening gown and long black gloves, belted out “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in true Judy Garland style. In the same fashion, Jessica Slaton lifted her voice to the ever-popular “White Christmas.”

The large Black Music Ensemble then took center stage rocking the house with praise songs “Emmanuel” with soloist Beatrice Stallings; “Hallelujah to Your Name” with soloist Breon Thomas and “The Heavens are Telling” with solos by Erinn Horton and David Foster. Music staff member Atossa Kramer merited a standing ovation with her stirring accompaniment on the recorder for “Hallelujah to Your Name.”

With the air electric, the thrilling evening was topped off by the toe-tappin’, hand clappin’ tunes of the six-member BC Bluegrass Ensemble. Musicians on two fiddles, a banjo, mandolin, guitar and bass vigorously played and sang to “I Saw Three Ships,” “Let It Snow,” “O Holy Night” and “Ebenezer.” The final number was “Glory Hallelujah to the Newborn King” by the concert choir as directed by senior Lederrick Wesley and featured lauded soloist Valton Jackson.

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