The Graceland choirs, orchestra and a community children’s choir will join forces to celebrate the season with “Christmas at the Shaw: Full of Grace and Truth.” The free performance is on Friday night, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Shaw Family Auditorium.
Choir director Sara Blessing relates that the evening has been designed in sound and visuals to enhance the true meaning of the Advent season, the prelude to the birth of Christ. A hundred musicians and a dozen stage hands and ushers combine efforts to make this a memorable gift to the campus and community. The auditorium will be decorated and singers will, at times, surround the audience to enhance this tribute to what Christmas represents.
The Graceland Concert Choir and Chamber Singers draw on a rich tradition of choral Christmas music. “Glory of the Father” comes from Norwegian composer Egil Hovland. Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo will be heard through an adaptation of the familiar “Away in A Manger.” The wise men get their spotlight in “Carol of the Magi.”
The program will include two numbers by composers with more famous relatives. “Run, Ye Shepherds to the Light,” by Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Franz Joseph Haydn, will be sung in German. Leopold Mozart, a talented composer and teacher in his own right, was overshadowed by his son Wolfgang Amadeus. The orchestra will give the audience a musical sleigh ride courtesy of the senior Mozart.
The orchestra will also present two Christmas classics from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet suite. The orchestra and choir, with orchestra conductor Jack Ergo on the Shaw Center pipe organ, will combine in Mack Wilberg’s powerful arrangement of “Joy to the World.”
Blessing urges the audience to come in good voice because there will be several opportunities throughout the evening to sing along with the choir and orchestra. The program will highlight those numbers in boldface to alert the auditorium to their big moments.
The final number merges the choirs, orchestra members and the community children’s choir. Youth from Lamoni and Central Decatur schools (and one younger brother of a Graceland choir member from Des Moines) will join the Graceland ensembles to conclude the evening with “Hope for Resolution” by collaborative composers Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory. It combines the 13th C. chant, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” with a South African Zulu freedom song – a fitting tribute to the enduring spirit of hope that Christmas represents.