According to Dr. Jon Hurty, an Augustana music director, “Christmas at Augustana has been the most well-attended on campus concert at Augustana since its inception about eight years ago.”
The opening song of this year’s performance was “Alleluia, Venite Gaudete” which was sung in latin. The song was a combined effort of the choirs and orchestra and the choir students moved throughout the auditorium while singing, to end up on the stage. Amanda Lindau, an Augustana first year who went to see Christmas at Augustana with her family, “really enjoyed the opening where the choir kids all came down with candles” and claims that it made her feel like she was inside the show.
Dr. Hurty also mentions that “there are three new people involved in leadership roles this year. Our new orchestra director is Dr. Daniel Chetel, our new handbell director is Ben Holmes and our new organist is Chris Nelson.” While Dr. Hurty explains that the Christmas at Augustana program hasn’t really changed all that much since its inception, he believes that these new people bring new fresh ideas and life to the program.
Some of these ideas have involved engaging the crowd in the concert by inviting them to sing along with well-known Christmas carols such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Angels We Have Heard on High”. The words are also included in the programs along with helpful translations for songs in other languages. Allessandra West, a first year in the orchestra, thought that this was a great idea “engage the crowd more since they know a lot of the carols”.
Dr. Hurty also explains that “when the Handbells were first involved, they did a prelude to the program. However, people really wanted to hear the group when people were not entering the hall. So now, we have mixed them into the main part of the program order.”
Overall, since Christmas at Augustana is so successful and popular, Dr. Hurty does not see any drastic changes coming to the program in the near future. However he did mention that they hope to continue to develop the Celebration of Christmas program by adding a “dinner and concert” possibility next year.
Dr. Hurty describes Christmas at Augustana as a concert that “brings together all the choirs, the orchestra, the brass ensemble and handbells into one festive performance of music from the Christmas season” and many audience members as well as performers would like to see this combined effort expand. West loved playing with all the groups and suggests trying to fit the band into the performance too. Similarly, Lindau’s favorite songs were “when everyone was together” and she would hope to see even more combined songs in future performances.