Gordon College’s 29th Annual Christmas Gala utilized the talents of over two hundred student musicians, as well as a children’s choir and other members of the surrounding community. The Christmas Gala held performances on December 6th and 7th at the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel. The ensembles included the children’s choir, the college choir, the men’s choir, the women’s choir, the symphony orchestra, and the symphonic band.
“The Christmas Gala is a unique and special event within the department and across the campus because of the way it involves every musician here at Gordon,” says Dr. Benjamin Klemme, Symphonic Orchestra Director, “it takes an unprecedented number of people to make this event the success that it is and the tradition that it has become… the amount of effort, and sacrifice and dedication that so many people put into the beauty, worship, and excellence of this event is immeasurable.”
The Orchestra introduced the gala with a prelude and closed it with a postlude. They performed Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring as well as Fantasia on “Greensleeves”. The symphonic band also played two pieces, Once in Royal David’s City and Good King Wenceslas. The pieces were selected by Klemme himself, but the artistic direction of the Gala is coordinated by Dr. Sandra Doneski, Director of Gordon’s music programs and Faith Luethe, Director of the Women’s Choir.
“The gala is the largest outreach that the college has,” says Luethe, “so there are lots of people that come to the gala who have no connection with the college. The emphasis… is not on performance, but on proclaiming the Gospel.”
The first step of planning the program for the Christmas Gala starts with prayer. After that, the process starts with scripture, “and then we kind of weave the musical numbers around that” says Luethe.
The selection of the numbers for the combined performances began around June or July, says Luethe, “we just search until something resonates. And the primary thing in the selection is, ‘will the message be clear?’”
President Lindsay began the evening by welcoming the gathered crowd. His welcome was followed by Rowland G. Prichard’s arrangement of Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, which began with the orchestra and ended with individuals from the audience raising their voices alongside the choir members flowing down the aisles with lit candles in hand.
Audience participation is a widely enjoyed aspect of the Gala that the artistic directors are very conscious of. Well-loved carols such as Oh Come, All Ye Faithful are vital parts of the program that are included every year. Luethe says, “it’s important to be engaged.”
The pieces in conjunction with the liturgy created a tale orchestrated around light during the night of the performance. The chapel was aglow with the Christmas lights draped around its perimeter and the thirteen stars hanging above the stage.
The Childrens choir sang See Amid the Winter Snow and The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.
The Women’s Choir sang Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day and the world premiere of Go Tell It On The Mountain commissioned by the Gordon College Women’s Choir in memory of the choral educator, Michele Holt.
The Men’s Choir sang an arrangement of How Great Our Joy as well as Child of God. In addition, the College Choir also performed two pieces—Weihnachten and Ain’t That-A Rockin’.
Gordon College’s 29th annual Christmas Gala ended just as it began with the raised voices of the crowd alongside the trained musicians seated upon the stage. In a moment of beautiful tradition, the entire chapel joined together to perform the final pieces of the gala—Sing to the Lord, a piece commissioned by the Gordon College Department of Music, and O Come, All Ye Faithful arranged by Sir David Willcocks. It was a night that laced the Gordon community together through miraculous sounds and glorious light.