This past Sunday, Mercyhurst presented “A Christmas Gala” at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. The concert featured Christmas music from the Mercyhurst Concert Choir, Wind Ensemble and Civic Orchestra. The afternoon’s performance had a “major” turnout and began with choral music. This included “The Huron Carol,” which conductor Thomas Brooks described as the first known Canadian Christmas carol.
Another stand-out selection was “A Hymn to the Mother of God,” where the music attempted to portray the Holy Spirit as it descended on Mary to make her a virgin mother. The arrangement included two soloists—soprano Hayley Ripple and bass Dennis Whalen.
The other arrangements performed were “Make We Joy,” “Riu, Riu, Chui” with baritone soloist Adam Seymour, “Shephard’s Pipe Carol” and “Where Riches is Everlasting.”
During a short interlude for the Wind Ensemble to set up, soprano Abigail Wise performed a solo arrangement of “O Holy Night” with piano accompaniment by Paul Caram. All in all, a great ef“forte” by the Mercyhurst Concert Choir.
The Wind Ensemble also started strong with classic Russian composition “Salvation is Created” followed by “Emmanuel Variants,” “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night” rejoined by the choir) and “Sleigh Ride” to end this portion with a “crack.”
The instrumental arrangement of “Sleigh Ride” is a personal favorite, and the Wind Ensemble did not disappoint. With another transition to the Civic Orchestra, contralto Rhyan Komsthoeft sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” with her own acoustic guitar accompaniment. This performance definitely pulled on the heart“strings.”
Finally, the Civic Orchestra livened the hall starting with “The Christmas Song” followed by “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Christmas at the Movies”— a medley of well-known Christmas film music that im“presto” everyone—and “White Christmas.”
The orchestral finale, “A Carol Festival,” was interactive for the audience as a sing-along with verses from “Joy to the World,” “Hark the Herald, Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” provided in the brochure .The concert was “attune” to the holiday season, and I know the audience was “trilled” to be in attendance with a great standing ovation at the end.
Of course, no concert runs smoothly without those working diligently behind the scenes. This production was supported by a staging crew, lights personnel and Hafenmaier College participation led by Dean Christina Riley-Brown. Their efforts allowed the musicians to perform their hearts out while remaining confident in their crew. With the hard work everyone put into planning, no one has to “play it by ear.”
All puns aside, it is a gift to have live music again, and there is significant talent in the entertainment programs at this university. Classical music is under appreciated in modern society, but it is students like these performers who keep the musical arts, especially classical music, alive. I, personally, was incredibly impressed with the display that they put together.
The Christmas Gala is just one way to encourage appreciation through well-known songs and a festive atmosphere. Next semester, the music department has many events planned from student soloists to guest artist series. Returning from break, there will be a Concerto/Aria competition in the Walker Recital Hall on Jan. 30.
If you enjoy jazz, which was not featured at the Christmas Gala, the Jazz Band will perform in both February and April. Tickets will be available at the box office or online.
All those who attended this concert left satisfied about investing in these musicians’ hard work, and everyone could let go of their “trebles” if only to enjoy a two-hour Christmas concert.
To make sure that you do not miss out on another experience like it, be sure to follow the MIAC Instagram account as they post updates about performances on campus.