The Christmas at Presbyterian College concert is always one of the biggest events the college puts on each year, and this year will be no different. “A Celtic Christmas,” the title of this year’s concert, harkens back to PC’s ancestral highlands and continues with this theme in its song selections and musical compositions, which will feature music from mostly Celtic and Scottish cultures, as well as music characteristic of those cultures.
Dr. Porter Stokes, the Barksdale Chair of Music, the chair of the music department, and the director of choral activities, is responsible for putting on the annual Christmas at PC concert. In an interview, he described the developmental process of this event, which begins in December shortly after the last concert has ended.
Each year the Christmas at PC concert differs in theme and stage setup, though oftentimes themes are inspired from lines in Christmas carols. “Why would we want to do the same thing over and over again?” Stokes said. By trying to make each year really different from the last, Stokes said that it would keep people (and the performers) interested and wanting to come back.
In early February and March, the theme and music selections are decided upon and later finalized in late May to early June, to allow for students in August to begin preparing for the Christmas concert.
Also in August, the technological aspect of the concert takes place, such as determining lighting on stage and setting up projectors that will display animations that coincide with the music being performed. The projectors especially aid with the annual performance, which tends to last about 75-80 minutes, by keeping audience members visually stimulated as well as aurally.
Stokes said that the program also incorporates musical pieces that allow audience members to stand up and participate in the concert. Audience participation, coupled with the visual images and aural tones of the choir members, bells, and orchestral music, helps make the Christmas at PC concert a fully engaging experience to get one in the holiday spirit.
Great time and effort goes into the production of the Christmas at PC concert each year. After musical pieces are determined and then organized into a program and the technological aids for the concert are put in place, students in the PC choir, orchestra, and handbells ensembles rehearse for at least four hours each day in the week leading up to the concert’s opening night.
All this time and effort pays off in the end, though, with the weekend performances of the Christmas at PC concert. For Stokes, the Christmas at PC concert is a reflection of the college, providing an “aural moment like the visual one” that Neville Hall gives when one looks down the West Plaza.
Yet the annual concert is not only a good image for the college, but is also a great provider of outreach and service to the community through its contribution of fine arts content. “It contributes to the quality, or the fabric, of life,” Stokes said. A culmination of students’ learning and hard work, a year’s worth of planning, and the interweaving of music, art, and energy, the Christmas at PC concert proves itself to be a concert worth experiencing year after year.
Tickets to see “A Celtic Christmas” are available for purchase online on the Music Department website through presby.edu, and will also be available two weeks prior to the concert for purchase at the box office in Belk Auditorium. “A Celtic Christmas” runs from Dec. 4-6, with Friday and Saturday performances beginning at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s performance beginning at 3 p.m. For more information, contact Beverly Davis at email@example.com.
Written by Allison Cooke, a junior English major, media studies, journalism track minor from Winnsboro, S.C.