January 26, 2020

Christmas At Gordon – Getting Into Advent Spirit

Gordon College Christmas Gala is full swing in December 2017. Photo by Nate McReynolds.

By Collin Hall ’21

Families and visitors from all over the North Shore gathered to see the 27th annual Christmas Gala this past weekend.  Gordon prides itself for hosting the “largest Christmas concert celebration on the North Shore.”  

The event has become a Gordon Christmastime highlight, attracting a sold-out crowd for both performances.  

This year’s performance was special in that it marks the 50th anniversary of Gordon’s music department.  A short video was played before the performance to commemorate the man who founded the department, Alton C. Bynum.   

The video detailed Bynum’s extraordinary journey from deep poverty to acclaimed department director.  Without Bynum, Gordon’s music program might not exist at all.  According to the video, “National Association of Schools of Music accreditation takes an average of 15 years.  He did it in just 3.”

From a young age, Bynum always stood out as different or odd. “I started thinking that I had been adopted because I was so different,” Bynum explained.  “The clothes he wore were made of grain bags… He wanted more for himself.”  

Bynum started running away from home at the ages of 13 and 14, but his life took a new shape when a teacher, Grace Cowden, allowed him to stay at her house.

She supported him and saw the potential he had for learning.  Bynum found a newfound determination to finish high school and to attend college.  

He did both successfully, and left his newly purchased home in New York to accept a job offer from Gordon College.  The rest of is history, as Gordon’s flourishing music department makes evident.  

The Christmas Gala also serves as a highlight for prospective students.  For the past two years, the Gala has coincided with Honors Day at Gordon, and prospective honors students were provided with complimentary tickets to the Gala.  

Prospective student, Christopher Landry, about the Gala said, “It was so cool to see all the talent found at Gordon, both vocally and instrumentally.  I had never seen anything like it before, and seeing it at my dream college was so awesome.”

“The music department and everyone who pitched in to pull off the event did a wonderful job, and it makes me so excited to see it next year when I’m a student!” Landry concluded.

Prospective music major Eryka Daniels said, “the music was beyond gorgeous, and it gave an amazing impression of the music department as a whole.”

Olivia Poplawski, a freshman who played violin during the show, stressed that “during rehearsals it was clear not one detail of the show was without careful consideration.”

The Gala was a time for reflection and for optimism towards the future.  Prospective students look forward to their upcoming college careers, and Gordon reflects back on its storied 50-year old music department.

As the Gala’s narrator told the story of the second Christmas Gala, where the fierce winter storm, Bethel, put out Gordon’s electricity, nostalgia seemed to fill the air.  

The Gala concluded with the debut of an original piece, composed by Boston composer Robert J. Bradshaw.  The piece, Rejoice!,  played to the strengths of the music department; all of the choirs and the full symphonic band brought this long and varied piece to life; it was a fitting conclusion to a beloved Gordon tradition.   

Gordon continued the celebrations throughout the weekend with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday night, wreath-decorating, carriage and sleigh rides around the quad, and a live nativity.

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