“Christmas at Augustana” with COVID-19

Connie Krupa

After a one year break due to the unfortunate outbreak of COVID-19, a very special tradition is returning: Christmas at Augustana! In previous years, the musical talent of Augustana comes together to put on a huge Christmas performance. This performance includes Augustana’s symphony orchestra, brass ensemble, Augustana Choir, Jenny Lind Vocal Ensemble, concert choral, and Ascension Ringers.

On Dec. 4, Centennial Hall will be filled with the lovely musical abilities of the student body. As far as the audience is concerned, the college will be taking extra special COVID-19 precautions. Tickets will be limited this year, but for good reason. With every ticket purchase, the seats around that selection will be blocked off for social distancing. 

The reservations of the surrounding seats is due to the astounding amount of people expected at this concert. Therefore, because so many seats will be reserved for each ticket purchase, spots will be limited this year. 

Here’s the good news: Christmas at Augustana will be streamed and broadcasted by the Quad Cities’ WQAD again. Therefore, if tickets run out, students, faculty, and community members can view the concert through the Augustana website. The Quad Cities is very involved in this special performance. Not only will WQAD be broadcasting the show, but the entire performance is also in collaboration with Quad Cities Bank and Trust. 

Everyone involved seems to be very excited, especially the Symphony Orchestra conductor Dr. Fernanda Lastra. Lastra is new to the campus community this year. She directs the orchestra and brass ensemble. 

I am very much looking forward to this concert! I have heard wonderful things about Christmas at Augustana and I am aware it is part of Augustana College tradition,” Lastra said. “Christmas at Augustana is also about collaboration, teamwork and synergy. All the ensembles perform together, all voices, all instruments, all faculty, with one purpose: to share our love for music with the community in such special times.”

Lastra also went more into detail about the COVID-19 precautions for the event. Along with the seat reservations, masks will be mandatory for all participants and audience members. In preparation for the concert, students are also taking strict precautions to protect themselves against the virus and to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Over 90 percent of the student body is already vaccinated, but masks are still required per the mask mandate in Illinois. 

All instructors are enthusiastic in anticipation of the event, even those who have been involved several times before. Dr. Michael Zemek, the choir director for Jenny Lind, has previously been involved in Christmas at Augustana and looks forward to the event even with its alterations. 

In many ways, it will feel and look familiar to those who have participated or attended in the past. The major differences are that we will not include the audience in singing Christmas carols throughout the concert, and the singers and instrumentalists will all be wearing masks while they perform,” Zemek said. However, regardless of the differences, the students who will be performing are working just as hard as any other year. 

In preparation for the concert, students and faculty are working extremely hard to make sure everything goes smoothly. According to Lastra, the orchestra is preparing, “works from the classic repertoire written for Christmas, and Christmas melodies that everyone will recognize and enjoy.” 

Hopefully, this tradition will continue long into the future as it has left such a lasting effect on the student body. Even though COVID-19 is still an issue, that will not stop a spectacular performance. The community has learned to adapt to the ever-changing virus. A tradition that everyone looks forward to, this year Christmas at Augustana will be one to remember!