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The 63rd Festival of Christmas Warms Hearts

A certain spark ignites within various musicians and artists during this year’s Festival of Christmas, led for the first time by Artistic Director Merrin Guice Gill.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

December 13, 2019 | 10 a.m.

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Festival of Christmas 2019

Festival of Christmas 2019: “Come, Let Us Adore Him!”

For those that attended the 63rd Annual Festival of Christmas, there seemed to be something different about this year’s performance centered on the theme “Come, Let Us Adore Him!” Held from December 5–7, the musical Christmas celebration included dancers, hand bells bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey, and Associate Professor of Music Merrin Guice Gill as artistic director for the first time.

The organ, played by Music and Theatre Office Coordinator Cindy Reents, greeted the audience as they entered a Benson Great Hall decorated with garlands, lights, and bows. As people chatted with friends and family and read through the program, both the wind symphony and orchestra prepared their instruments. President Jay Barnes welcomed everyone for his last Festival of Christmas as president, but he promised that the performance was not about him and his wife, Barb, but about Jesus. “For this all begins and ends with Him,” he said.

The first song introduced this year’s theme. Arranged by Music Department Chair Jonathan Veenker, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” began with the orchestra, gradually building for the choir to enter from the back of Benson Great Hall. The choir filled the aisles, surrounded the audience, and sung over flickering candles housed in multicolored jars.

The program celebrated many aspects of music and honored the work each individual contributed—from the ushers who welcomed hundreds of people to the soloists who hit impossible notes. This year’s performance included dancers Laura Clark ’23 and Joshua Vana ’23, who performed Professor of Theatre Meg Zauner’s choreography during three pieces, adding another visual element to the program. Theatre students Hannah Joy Peterson ’20 and Katherine Juul Nevins—also a professor of psychology—read Scripture throughout the performance.  

The finale—a piece called “Hope for Resolution,” originally a 13th century plainsong and South African freedom song sung in Zulu—was met with a standing ovation. As the hundreds of attendees headed toward their coats or cars, choir members yelled a polite “Excuse me!” as they pushed past the crowd and raced down the steps. They recollected near the entrance to Benson Great Hall, where they sang the Doxology in harmony, warming the hearts of many as they returned to the gusts of wind swirling around the snowy parking lot.

Yours to Keep.

If you missed this year’s production or wish to commemorate it, you can order a copy of this or previous recordings of Festival of Christmas.

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