CAL: A colorful repertoire in the 2018 program

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CAL: A colorful repertoire in the 2018 program

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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This year’s Christmas at Luther celebration filled the Center for Faith and Life nearly to capacity for each of the five performances. Audiences braved the winter weather to see Aurora, Norsemen, Cathedral Choir, Collegiate Chorale, Nordic Choir, Symphony Orchestra, the Luther Ringers, and Professor of Music and College Organist Gregory Peterson (‘83) perform under a giant rose window designed by Professor of Theatre Jeff Dintaman.

This year’s Christmas at Luther featured several original pieces that were debuted during the concerts. A new addition to the program for this year was an introit, an introductory song that began the entire program. Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music Andrew Last (‘97) conducted the intriot, which was called “Every Voice in Concert Ring.” Composer Terre Johnson was commissioned to write the piece. Johnson used the introit to introduce musical themes from the candle lighting song, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” which he also wrote for Christmas at Luther. Assistant Professor of Music Jennaya Robison (‘96) wrote the individual piece “Ring Out!” for Aurora, featuring handbells scattered throughout the choir.

Several narrations were also interwoven into the introit. Instructor in Music Mark Potvin (‘01) proposed positioning narrators throughout the hall with wireless microphones instead of speaking at the front of the stage, as has been done in the past.

“I asked Dr. Last what he would think about moving the narrators out from the podium,” Potvin said. “We agreed that because the theme was ‘Every Voice in Concert Ring,’ it would be nice to have voices coming from different places in the room as a way of evoking a global feel. It has worked out really well. I think it looks nice on stage, and I think the readings gain a little more dramatic traction now that the narrators have to be memorized and perform their text.”

Professor of Music Daniel Baldwin conducted “I (from Chichester Psalms)” and Potvin conducted “Laudamus Te.” Symphony Orchestra, Nordic Choir, Collegiate Chorale, and Cathedral Choir will perform these mass pieces together in the spring as a part of a larger oratorio. The show concluded with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “XVI. Epilogue (from Hodie: A Cantata for Christmas)” directed by Last.

Potvin enjoyed the diversity of the programming this year, which he said happened partially by chance.

“That’s the serendipitous nature of this event,” Potvin said. “Because there are some things we plan together and some things we plan with complete autonomy, you really never know what’s going to happen with the program. What I particularly like this year is the variety. From the Symphony’s two pieces to Rachmaninoff and southern gospel and carols from Norway and the West Indies, there’s quite a bit of diversity on the program.”

Cathedral’s “O Jul Med Din Glede” was originally published in English and was translated into Norwegian by composer Carolyn Jennings for Christmas at Luther. Assistant Professor of Scandinavian Studies Maren Johnson coached the choir on the language with the assistance of Norwegian-speaking students Eddy Galstad (‘20) and Kai Storvick (’21).

“That’s an older piece that got used frequently in the 80s and the early 90s, and then just kind of evaporated from common repertoire instead of being performed,” Potvin said. “Hopefully this helps prompt a second life for it.”

Peterson thought this year and the last were made particularly special by the ideas Last brought to the Artistic Committee for the program.

“[Last] has a vision of bringing in more of the campus,” Peterson said. “So two years in a row now, it’s using the art and theater department to produce a wonderful set and this year bringing in dancers and spreading them out throughout the hall.”

Several dancers were featured in this program during “I (from Chichester Psalms).” The dancers used flags and stood around the hall, with some on the stage, some in the choir balcony, and some in the aisles. Cody Arndtson (‘17) created the choreography for the dancers.

The Luther Ringers were featured on “Christmas Eve,” an arrangement of a piece by the Trans Siberian Orchestra for bell choir, which also featured Claire Goodfellow (‘20) on cello, Rachel Schwabenbauer (‘19) on flute, and Josh Van Sant (‘21) on percussion.

“I try to find music that showcases the Ringers ensemble with the various techniques that are possible,” Peterson said. “I try to find something that is impressive. A lot of people will hear bell choirs in their churches playing lovely pieces, but they’re kind of basic. When they come to [Christmas at Luther], I want them to see the whole range of what’s possible.”

Nordic Choir member Nathan Baldwin (’19) particularly enjoyed the final song of the concert, which utilized all of the musicians.

“The ‘Emmanuel’ part of the finale was so dramatic and fulfilling,” Baldwin said.

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