‘Tis the season. All across campus, students are getting in the Christmas spirit.
For the music department, this means the production of their annual Christmas Vespers concert where the A Capella choir, women’s choir, trombone ensemble and orchestra will perform music to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Audiences will also be invited to sing along to many festive hymns and carols.
Friday morning chapel will showcase several of the key music pieces of this year’s concert, and the full Vespers concert will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Seating is limited, and tickets are required.
For all that attend the concert annually, the music of Vespers is a huge source of joy and holiday spirit, and for many members of the choir, it is their favorite music concert of the year.
“The music is a beautiful celebration of the humble beginnings of our savior,” junior Michael Hornback said.
Senior Kyle Johnson agreed.
“Hymns smack and there’s nothing better than declaring God is born with many voices,” Johnson said.
This year, the music and joy of Vespers is needed more than ever, and to senior Schuyler Sterk, the theme of glorifying and praising God is incredibly timely for closing out 2020.
“Things might be a lot different and might feel really terrible at times, but God is still with us and worth praising,” she said.
The music for this year’s concert promises to be especially beautiful and gratifying with the A Capella choir performing a 22-minute choral piece by John Rutter titled “Gloria.” It will be accompanied by eight brass players, two percussionists and the organ.
According to Dr. Thomas Holm, director of Vespers, this is only the third time this piece has been performed at Northwestern in his 21 years at the college.
“It has always been a favorite of the performers and audience,” Holm said.
Selecting the music and planning for Vespers begins in the summer and is an intentional process. The directors review hundreds of music selections including many new pieces.
From music selection, they begin to piece together a theme that will guide the entire concert and the pieces of each ensemble. Each detail and aspect of the performance is carefully considered.
“Designing a program that involves several ensembles, much movement, thematic flow and audience participation takes many, many hours,” Holm said.
Eventually, after rehearsing throughout the fall, the week before Vespers, the ensembles take part in many joint rehearsals and movement rehearsals in order to get everything just right.
The effort and love put into this year’s concert is particularly special, as many members of the A Capella choir will be graduating or student teaching next semester, making Vespers their last performance with the choir.
“Vespers is our last chance to really sing with each other and take in the beauty that comes with worshipping through the music we’ve spent months working on together,” said senior Bree Hodnefield. “Vespers will be an emotional yet breathtaking weekend, especially for this year’s seniors.”
In light of COVID-19, Vespers will be different this year than years past. Performers will be masked, and the processional and recessional movements of the choir have been changed to maintain distance from the audience.
For audiences, masks will also be required, and because of social distancing, chapel capacity has been reduced.
Tickets are free to reserve but are on a first come first serve basis, and they may be reserved for “family seating” (groups of three or less) or “single seating” (one individual).
To obtain a ticket for the event, contact the music department secretary Nora Verburg at 712-707-7062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.