HOW FAR IS IT TO BETHLEHEM?
FRIDAY-SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 6, AND 7
FR/SA AT 7:00PM; SU AT 3:00PM
For the past three months, the music ensembles at Presbyterian College have been rehearsing a Christmas repertoire in preparation for the college’s annual Christmas at PC performances. Scheduled for December 5, 6, and 7 of 2014, these concerts have become one of the premier Christmas performances in South Carolina. The 2014 edition is the sixteenth annual set of performances since the first in 1999.
Christmas at PC is the umbrella name of these performances and connects the series from one year to the next. But each year, a theme is chosen around which the entire program revolves. For 2014, the theme is “How Far Is It to Bethlehem?” This line is quoted from a poem written on a Christmas card in 1917 by Francis Chesterton, the wife of the writer and philosopher, G. K. Chesterton. The PC Choir will begin the program by performing the musical setting of the poem by Geoffrey Shaw.
Every year, the PC Choir, Bella Voce (Women’s Choir), Cantare! (Men’s Choir), Chamber Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Percussionists, PC Ringers (Handbell Choir), PC Pipers (Bagpipes) and other musicians at PC begin rehearsals on their Christmas repertoire in August. But the planning for the performances actually begins much earlier.
Dr. Porter Stokes, Chair of the Department of Music at PC, explains some of the preliminary work required to produce the concerts: “We actually start planning for the next production while we are in the middle of the performances each December. During the performance week, directors and performers are constantly bringing ideas and opinions about how the performances can be improved or in what direction we need to go for the next cycle. “
“Around the first of February, directors of the ensembles begin collecting possible music to include in the next performance. There’s so much Christmas music available and everyone has an agenda and folks are territorial about what they want to do. By April, we have collected actual copies of all the music and begun the process of determining what can and what can’t be performed. Usually, it’s a matter of program length – people buy tickets to attend and expect to get their money’s worth, and we believe that is about seventy minutes of material. But the audience begins to tire if they are still sitting in their seats after ninety minutes of performance. So, we try to limit the performances to about eighty minutes. We believe that is about the right length for most attendees. “
“Another factor in determining program length is how well the performers will hold up over multiple performances. We rehearse for thirteen hours on the Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings of the performance week; then we present performances on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That’s a lot of singing and playing in a one-week period. And that same week is also the final week of classes at PC, and the weekend of the performances is the weekend right before exams begin. So, we also have to consider the stamina and well-being of all the performers.”
The performances will not occur for another month, but ticket sales are well underway. Tickets for the performances on December 5, 6, and 7 may be purchased online by going to www.presby.edu/christmas or in the Department of Music offices at the front of Belk Auditorium.