The long awaited annual Christmas program, taking place Dec. 2-4 in Belk Auditorium, is in the works of perfection at Presbyterian College. Dr. Porter Stokes, professor of music explained that the thought process of the next year’s program begins during the current year’s program. It essentially begins with a format and theme, then connections with the entire repertoire with the theme.
The music for each year comes from several sources. There is music on hand in the libraries of the music department, and then there are new things that have been published in the past previous 12 months. Any music that has to be ordered, takes six-to-eight weeks to arrive, so the department must make sure it arrives before “Pre-choir boot camp,” therefore, July 1, is the drop-dead date to order music. The department makes a list of music around two hours long, and then breaks it down to something around an hour and twenty minutes in total.
From January through May of the preceding year, organization of the theme and music occurs. Stokes explained that one must, “Find a way that the music that seems appropriate becomes woven into a recognizable fabric. It does not need to be in alphabetical order; a story has to occur. You need unity and fluidity. Over the course of the next three or four months, the program takes shape and evolves.”
Stokes also explained how important for the program to begin early in the summer so that “you can learn in an order that makes sense for the class pedagogically. It is not about learning the music; it’s about learning to be a musician.”
Senior, Kellie Cleveland said that this year’s music is extremely intricate.
“I think that the music we have been preparing for this year is some of the most complex and intricate music we have worked on thus far,” she said. “We are singing some classic favorites such as ‘Sing We Now of Christmas’ and ‘The First Nowell’ but we also have some truly beautiful pieces such as Biebl’s ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Candlelight Carol.’ And of course there is the annual ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’ that I can’t believe that I will be singing for the last time as a student. Christmas show has always been one of my favorite parts of PC and seeing as this is my last Christmas show, it is definitely bittersweet!”
The department focuses on making each program different from year to year, which can sometimes be a difficult task due to the space they are given. They cannot change Belk Auditorium and that space dictates what you can and cannot do. Once the limits of the auditorium are determined, the department can go from there.
Some things cannot change year to year due to the building, so they change everything else they can to make it a different show from the past. Changing the show visually is one of the biggest ways to make it different. In the beginning, they started out with projections that displayed the titles of the songs, then moved to displaying short movie like concepts last year.
Stokes explained that this year will be completely different. He did not reveal the secret but did explain that they are taking a risk, unsure whether or not it will work. It will be visually different, using more lighting effects than in years past.
Written by Ashley Cowart, a senior English major from Woodruff, S.C.