As the days grow shorter and the wind gets colder, Northwestern students anxiously await the beginning of the holiday season. This season is marked by the mysterious appearance of wreaths hanging above the doors of VPH, “Jingle Bell Rock” blasting from Zwemer tower, and the much-anticipated Christmas Vespers concert.
The annual Christmas Vespers is unlike most music concerts at NW. While reflecting on what makes Vespers stand out, senior music education major Evan Gutzmer said “Vespers is different from other concerts in several ways. One of the biggest is the sheer number of people involved in the production, for it truly is a production.” This year, Vespers will feature the orchestra, Women’s Choir, organ, a brass ensemble and even a short opera from the A Capella Choir. Allison Sjaarda, a sophomore music major, says “Vespers is more like a Christmas program more than a concert and usually includes a bigger piece than your normal choir/orchestra pieces.”
With all this music comes a great deal of preparation on the part of the directors and students. For Dr. Holm, professor of music and director of both the A Capella Choir and Heritage Singers, the process of preparing for Vespers began over a year ago. Dr. Holm says this involved “Choosing basic themes, ideas and principal characters.” Actual rehearsals for this concert were started a few months ago, and as the weekend of Vespers approaches “All components are finally settled and placed in the flow of the concert” says Dr. Holm.
For students in Vespers, although the preparation is long, the experience of being in Vespers is unlike any other. “My favorite part of Vespers is when we combine all of the different parts together for the carols. It is always fun to just sing the carols with just the choirs, but once we add in the strings and the organ, it really makes for a fun and memorable experience,” Gutzmer said.
The Vespers concert exemplifies the idea of ensemble. Although each musical group is a separate part, they all come together to create a more beautiful sound. This is not the norm for most concerts and is a rare treat for any music lover. Sjaarda says “When I am singing with everybody, I think about how we are all one body in Christ. Even though we all come from different places and do not know each other, we are all connected by one God and one song.”
This experience is not just for the performers. The audience is also given the opportunity to participate in the communal act of making music together. “Vespers has several audience carols that are performed by the choirs, orchestra, organ and the audience all together,” says Gutzmer. Singing carols at the Christmas Vespers is truly a NW tradition.
However, along with the customary Christmas carols and usual concert elements, each year, the concert offers something new. According to Dr. Holm, “A special feature this year is a children’s sung story in the middle of the concert that the audience will find humorous and also quite compelling; it portrays challenges, humor, human responses and heart transformation.”
Both students and faculty have put countless hours into the creation of this year’s Christmas Vespers concert, and with so many performances, both old and new, this concert is not one to miss.
Come enjoy the Christmas Vespers in Christ Chapel on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3p.m.