A more than 90-year tradition continued this past weekend as nearly 200 student musicians joined in song for the 2015 Christmas Concert: A Carol Festival.

The production is the biggest arts event of the year, featuring five music groups, and hosting nearly 2,000 audience members. The Valparaiso University Department of Music began their holiday season with this performance.

The Chorale, the Women’s Choir, the Men’s Ensemble, the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Concert band performed both individually and as a mass for two concerts on Friday and Saturday. Both music and non-music majors take part in the variety of groups Valpo has to offer to its students. This current model has been in existence for the past twenty years.

This year's program included a selection of chosen music including George Frideric Handel's "Messiah," John Gardner's "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing," Felix Mendelssohn's "There Shall Be a Star from Jacob," settings by Rutter, Barber and Kodaly and traditional holiday favorites such as "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Silent Night."

“The Christmas Concert features the largest numbers of performers, the largest audience and the most rehearsals,” said Jeff Hazewinkel, director of the Center for the Arts.

For senior Chorale member Jerri Moran, this was her fourth and final Christmas production.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” she said. “I will definitely miss it a lot, but I think this was the perfect one to end it with.”

The Chorale has anchored her tenure at Valpo, with daily rehearsals a refuge from an otherwise hectic college life.

“There’s this bond that’s created when you’re able to put it all together,” Moran said. “When you’re standing together, you’re putting yourself out there and it creates a bond with the others that are doing the same thing.”

While Moran is bidding adieu, the program was just the start for freshman Chorale member Anneliese Depenthal.

“It was a challenge but it was definitely worth it,” Depenthal said. “You work really hard on the music and then have such a response from the audience. They love it.”

The beginning of her Chorale career has sparked her interest in the Valpo music department. As a second-generation Chorale member, she is looking forward to staying involved throughout her college career.

While the December tradition is nearly a century old, the name “A Carol Festival” is relatively modern. Jeff Hazewinkel, the VUCA director said the current model was born in 2007 or 2008. He said the goal with the “Carol Festival” is to incorporate known melodies for the audience.

Junior CCB member Emily Robinson said the band was able to “show its musicality” with the selections this year.

“It's a great way to celebrate Christmas with the entire Valpo community with all the musical groups,” she said. “It really involves everyone with the audience.”

The Valparaiso University Department of Music began their holiday season with this performance and also had a few others that were also focused on the Christmas theme.

Contact Rebecca Gesme at torch@valpo.edu.

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