Several musical ensembles, in addition to the Drama Ministries Ensemble, will present the annual Christmas Vespers concert this weekend.
A Vespers service is a special prayer and singing service conventionally held in the evening. Its name comes from the sixth of the canonical hours that is sung in the late afternoon or evening. Originally, the word comes from the Latin vesper, loosely translated as “evening star.”
Northwestern’s Christmas Vespers Concert is an annual tradition that members of the campus community, as well as the Sioux County community, look forward to each year.
With campus decked out for the holiday season, Christmas Vespers is the perfect event to usher in the Advent season and the celebration of the birth of our Savior.
This year, the program is focused on the coming of Christ, his commissionand our response. Chair of the NW Music Department, Professor Thomas Holm, said the program’s inspiration came from a Taiwanese Christmas carol, “The Hunger Carol.”
“Its four verses progress from the idea that the baby was born in poverty, knowing what it means to have little or nothing, and having provided the bread of life that is needed by all humankind,” Holm said. “And that, if we simply enjoy the benefits of our own bread and don’t care about the needs around us, we are essentially crucifying Christ again on a Christmas tree.”
The score of the carol was written by I-to Loh who set the music to a text by Shirley Erena Murray. The name of the tune is Smokey Mountain, referring to a trash heap in the Philippines.
Regarding “The Hunger Carol,” the composer once noted “if all my hymns are forgotten but this one, I’ll be happy.”
Under the direction of Holm, the A Capella choir will perform this hymn in Taiwanese as a part of the program. The choir will also perform works such as “I Wonder as I Wander,” arranged by John Rutter, “Mary, Did You Know?” arranged by Craig Courtney, “Sweetest Music, Softly Stealing” by Elaine Hagenberg and “Kyrie” by Ugis Praulins.
Additionally, the Women’s Choir will perform pieces such as John Englert’s “Veni, Veni Emmanuel” and “How Great Our Joy” by Courtney.
The Chamber Orchestra will perform the tunes “Carol of the Bells”/“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” arranged by Matt Riley, and “Fantasia on Greensleeves” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Finally, the Drama Ministries Ensemble, under the direction of Jeff Barker, will be performing three pieces including Simeon’s Blessing, an enactment of the Hunger Carol and Silent Night.
Each of the above ensembles, as well as the Brass Ensemble, have been preparing pieces for this program since October. Although tedious at times, student musician Erica Kitchenmaster says it’s been a good experience.
Additionally, NW’s beloved organist, MaryLou Wielenga, will be performing organ solos, and there will be ample opportunities for the audience to praise and sing along with the ensembles and the organ.
The free program is open to the public at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec 1, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec 2, in Christ Chapel.