The music department plans and prepares for this much-anticipated Christmas tradition
Culture | Courtney Sperry
The Bethel Choir rehearses in preparation for the big week of Festival. | Erin Gallagher
This year Bethel will host its 56th Festival of Christmas "Oh How Joyfully! An International Festival."
Dennis Port has been the artistic director of this event for the past 18 years. Port stated that this year's Festival is centered around the hymn "Oh How Joyfully" by the British poet Brian Wren. He said it will function as the “feature anchor piece” of the event this year. They wanted to incorporate an international theme as well, exemplifying the third line from the poem, “…waits the world on Christmas Eve.”
As the music departments prepares for Festival, Port enthusiastically said, “I like the fact that I’m never just going through the motions.”
He described that the format for Festival will be broken into three sections, based on the three verses of the poem, and will also include narrations in other languages by students from the Bethel community. Other than English, the languages featured will be Swahili, Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, German and Swedish.
There will also be musical pieces from other countries, including a Spanish carol, a festive Argentinean piece entitled “Navidad Nuestro” and the song “Silent Midnight,” which will be sung in Mandarin.
Bach's "Mass in B Minor" will also be sung, which, according to Port, will be the high point of Festival because of the piece’s recognition.
Bethel campus pastor Laurel Bunker will be narrating the opening and closing of the show.
The event will include approximately 250 Bethel student performers from musical groups such as the Bethel Orchestra, Bethel Wind Symphony, Bethel Choir, Women’s Chorale, Handbell Ensemble, Bethel Chamber Orchestra and the Men’s Royal Singers.
Two of the 70 students from Bethel Choir, Callie Turner and Shatera Graham, are enthusiastic about performing this year. For Turner, a senior, this will be her fourth and last year singing in Festival.
“It’s going to be really hard,” Turner said. “I remember my first time out. I was so excited and I was so nervous.” Even though it is sad to recognize this as her last Festival, Turner is grateful for her choir experience.
“I’m just going to savor the moment. The Bethel Choir community is so important to me and we’re just like a big family," Turner said. "I will look forward next year to be in the audience because I’ve never actually watched it.”
On the other hand, Graham, a freshman, is going to be participating in her first Festival. She expressed the value of the international theme this year to her personally.
“It doesn’t matter what ethnic background you are. What matters is that we’re all children of God, and we’re going to come together and we’re going to praise God through this worship.” Since much of the music is in other languages, Graham said that, “You feel really accomplished after you learn them.”
After participating in Festival this year, Graham will get to cross another item off her bucket list. “It’s really exciting…the more I think about it, the more excited I get.”