The University of Indianapolis presented its annual holiday concert, “A Christmas Celebration,” on Dec. 9 in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall at 11 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. The presentation featured choral and orchestral contributions from Greyhound students and staff alike, including centuries-old Christmas carols in addition to conventional staples of the season.
The UIndy Concert Choir, Schola, Women’s Chorus, Chamber Orchestra and Handbell Ensemble played a role in the night’s musical performance. Choirs were conducted by Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities Paul Krasnovsky, the Chamber Orchestra was conducted by Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Sting Ensembles Austin Hartman and Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands Vu Nguyen, and the University Handbell Ensemble was directed by Technical and Operations Manager of the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall Peter Nichols. The tradition of the Christmas Celebration is decades old at the university, according to Krasnovsky.
“When I first came here, we had Christmas concerts in the church across the street, and we did a thing called ‘Festival of Lessons and Carols,’ and that was a huge tradition,” Krasnovsky said. “I came here in 1979, and until––I think it was––1993, we did concerts in the church every Christmas, and it was beautiful.”
Krasnovsky said that the concert was once fully choral, but orchestral elements were incorporated after the construction of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. This new approach to the traditional composition of the concert allows musicians, such as senior flautist Morgan Knight, to showcase their abilities during the annual holiday concert.
“It’s exciting but kind of sad,” said Knight about her final Christmas Celebration. “It’s one of the best concerts we [have] put on.”
Knight’s fondness for the holiday concert was one echoed by freshman Kahlie Cargal, who performed in her first Christmas Celebration as part of the Handbell Ensemble and Women’s Chorus.
“I’ve never had a Christmas celebration like this,” Cargal said. “It’s always just been a holiday for me. This is more specific; it’s more formal. I like the music.”
The music Cargal spoke about was a combination of traditional Christmas carols and lesser-known holiday songs from centuries before, including a 15th century Gregorian chant and a 12th century French piece titled “Orientis Partibus,” about the flight of the holy family into Egypt.
In addition to these, the orchestral component of the concert featured independent numbers of its own such as Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto.” Nguyen, who conducted the piece, said that he feels the variety available to the audience at the Christmas Celebration is what drew 2016’s sold-out crowd.
“They’ll get to hear singers singing on their own. They’ll hear the choir singing acapella. They’ll hear individual soloists from the choir. Prior to the concert, they’ll hear our Handbell Ensemble and then they’ll get to hear a piece just with strings and a piece with everybody on stage. Just the variety of it,” Nguyen said.
The orchestra performed many traditional Christmas carols such as Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” and “A Christmas Sing-Along” arranged by Bob Cerulli and John Moss. In spite of these piece’s conventionality, Nguyen said that the experience of performing holiday music is far from tedious.
“I enjoy the energy from the audience. I like turning it around to the audience during the sing-along, seeing them smiling while they’re singing…. That aspect of making music, of connecting with people, that never gets old,” Nguyen said. “It may not be the most challenging piece of music for us, but how great is it to be able to connect with the people that are coming to hear our music?”
Pre-College Student Recitals will feature both instrumentalists and singers on December 18 at 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m., during which time students will showcase their accomplishments from each semester.
An upcoming performance for the University of Indianapolis Music Department includes “Faculty Artist Concert Series: Ronen Collaborations: Youthful Exuberance” on Jan. 23 at 7:30 in the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall.