Westmont's choir and orchestra celebrate the Christmas season
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Westmont's annual Christmas Concert came in with a bang. Featuring the combined efforts of the Westmont orchestra and the college’s various choirs, the festival celebrated the Christmas season in style. Months of work culminated in a series of matinée and evening performances at First Presbyterian Church. Even getting in to the performance was somewhat of a feat; tickets were in high demand, and all performances featured a packed house.
After a brief welcome by campus pastor Ben Patterson, narrators Sean McElrath and Anna Telfer began the evening with a series of poetic reflections on the meaning of Christmas. The orchestra started up their instruments and from the back of the church, the choir came forward. Each member carried a candle, illuminating the hall and filling the room with a chant of “Alleluia, Venite Gaudete.” From there, the concert only picked up speed.
McElrath and Telfer continued to punctuate the orchestral pieces with poems, reflections and biblical verses. Among the hymns and carols were songs in English, Latin, French, and Spanish. Individual choirs stepped forward to perform their own pieces, including an all-men’s rendition of “Veni Veni, Emmanuel” and an all-women’s version of the French piece “Il est né, le divin Enfant.”
All of the choirs came together at the end for one last piece with the orchestra. Upon finishing, the performers were received with an enthusiastic standing ovation. As an encore, the musicians broke out Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” to even more wild applause.
Besides being incredibly appealing to the attendees, the event was also great fun for the performers. Sophomore Carolyn Gruss, who sings soprano, was particularly happy with the evening, saying, “Part of what makes the Christmas Festival so incredible is that it is the ultimate culmination of an entire semester’s worth of work; our achievement is not just technical or musical, but success, at least for me, is measured in how profoundly we can move our audience and community by sharing Christ’s covenant of love.”
Senior Micah Anthony, baritone for both college choir and the chamber singers, echoed similar sentiments: “What I love about the Christmas Concert is the way it reinvigorates the songs for me. I've been practicing these songs for three months, but seeing the audience react with joy reminds me how beautiful they are. And of course it's always fun to hear the songs other groups have been working on.”
After the event, attendees were afforded the opportunity to mix and mingle with the performers (and shower them with well-deserved praise). Part of the enjoyment for many was the way in which Westmont’s student body received the concert with genuine excitement; the excitement on the faces of those in attendance was clearly visible. Although disappointed that the concert was over, the audience was glad for the way in which the orchestra and choir had helped bring about the spirit of the season.