Sunday, December 21, 2008

Love's Pure Light

I have been home on winter break for three days now, and it was a little unnerving at first to have virtually nothing to do (save Christmas shopping) after a fast-paced, extremely busy last month of the semester at Wheaton College.

But, I have reestablished equilibrium mentally, and I would like to share a little about one highlight from the past month: Love’s Pure Light, the 2008 Wheaton College Christmas Festival. To start, let me note that this year’s festival was the first large-scale Conservatory production in which I have performed, although I was involved in two such productions last year; last year’s Christmas Festival and the Artist Series presentation of Berlioz Requiem.

I know, of course, that the week preceding these productions involves extra extended rehearsals and that a mild hysteria pervades the Conservatory community. During the preparation week itself I did not feel particularly flustered, but I realized when I crashed on Sunday afternoon that that was because I myself had been running on adrenaline all week. But I recovered after finally getting a good night’s sleep.

All the preparations must have gone well, because both performances of the festival that weekend, in my opinion, went well. I really enjoyed performing in such a large production. The house was all but sold out both evenings (if I remember correctly, there were only fifty tickets left when the box office opened for at-the-door sales on Saturday night).

My favorite part of the program was the first number that featured the Symphonic Band when we took the stage after intermission. “Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah” is a piece for choir, congregation, wind ensemble, and organ. I would like to reprint the words here:

Come behold this Child in the manger
Gift of the Father’s great love
Angels look down as His glory surrounds them
Starlight from heaven above
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
God with us now come to dwell
Sing Noel, lift high His praises
Christ our Emmanuel
Christ our Emmanuel

Lift up your heads all who wander in darkness
Shine for your light has come
Down through the ages though sin’s battle rages
Christ our Messiah has won
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
Come adore on bended knee
Sing Noel, lift high his praises
Christ come to set us all free
Christ come to set us all free

Let every daughter and son of the Father
Rise on this Christmas morn
With heaven voicing all praise and rejoicing
Christ our Redeemer is born
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
All creation great and small
Sing Noel, lift high his praises
Christ come to save us all
Christ come to save us all

[Words by David Hamilton. © 2007 Word Music.]

It is a great piece of Christmas music, in my opinion. Since I began my serious study of music, I have developed a critical ear and taste for music, and I have recently found myself turned off by a small portion of Christmas-themed repertoire (e.g., “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”). But I really enjoy a well-written and well-orchestrated Christmas anthem such as “Sing Noel.”

The title of this year’s festival, Love’s Pure Light, is taken from the third stanza of the hymn “Silent Night.” I have to admit, this hymn has never been one of my favorites. But I was moved as I sang the last verse a capella with a 2400-member audience, a 200-member choir, and a 60-member band. I want to commend Dr. Mary Hopper, artistic director for the festival, on her work this year. It was a very uplifting experience for me.

Side note: you may be wondering what is my favorite Christmas hymn? Actually, I have two. “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “O Holy Night.” I also do enjoy a good arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” for brass choir or combined choir and orchestra.

Merry Christmas! May you experience the love of our Lord in a fresh way this week!

This is Rubio, over and out.

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