St. Olaf’s annual Christmas Festival, a century-old tradition, succeeded at capturing this year’s “Good News of Great Joy” theme through beautiful choral and orchestral music.

The St. Olaf Orchestra, St. Olaf Choir, St. Olaf Chapel Choir, Cantorei, Manitou Singers and Viking Chorus performed together and individually throughout the concert. Each group and song gave a lasting impression of thoughtful preparation and dedication to the essence of each piece.

“Each group and song gave a lasting impression of thoughtful preparation and dedication to the essence of each piece” – Claire Drewes ’22

One example of this was the order of songs that kept the audience engaged. Familiar tunes mixed in with more obscure melodies, as well as clever alternation between lively and slow pieces interested listeners. The first song, “Dawn, Redeeming, Radiant,” entered sweetly and softly with the tune of “Away in a Manger” mixed in, but was then contrasted with the triumphant sound of “Prologue (The Apostles).”

Choir members surrounded the audience as they entered the performance space, projecting the sound of each voice and immersing viewers in the auditory experience. Audience members even had the chance to participate in songs like “Prepare the Royal Highway” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

The concert design also turned out incredibly well. Hues of blue and purple cleverly decorated the gym. Students in brightly colored robes sat and stood in unison, obviously well-rehearsed in front of a beautiful background of violet, indigo and stars. Banners were carried in the aisles as the choirs entered, adding another aesthetic element to the show as a whole.

Solos and duets from the St. Olaf Orchestra and choirs in songs such as  “Gaudete!” and “Go Where I Send Thee” proved the great talent of the individuals. At the same time, surprising snapping and hand motions in “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” and synchronized swaying in “Alleluia (Brazilian Psalm)” revealed the cohesion of each musical group.

One of the most memorable songs, “Eit barn er født i Betlehem,” added bass and violin to the choir and included a duet with gorgeous harmonies. This song, and others in foreign languages, were conveniently accompanied by translations in the program.

Overall, the 2018 St. Olaf Christmas Festival added another beautiful musical memory to the already-outstanding holiday tradition.