The week after Thanksgiving break brings one of the most cherished traditions at Bethel University—Festival of Christmas. This year, our 56th celebration, the theme is Oh How Joyfully! An International Festival.
Festival of Christmas shows our Music Department at its best, and Benson Great Hall literally sparkles. Our artist-conductors and approximately 300 student musicians lead us in worship of our God and savior. And supporting them—where no one sees—are dozens of staff who make this production possible and extend our hospitality to the several thousand people who will visit our campus for Festival.
Barb and I get to go to all four performances. We choose a different seating area for each one. It is amazing what you see and hear differently from the various locations in Benson Great Hall. Before the hall was built, Festival was held in the Robertson Center gym, St. John the Baptist Church in New Brighton, and the field house on the old Snelling Avenue campus. Although there are many good memories of concerts in those locations, I am very thankful for the terrific acoustics in Benson Great Hall!
Six years ago, Twin Cities Public Television recorded the live performances and edited them into a broadcast. Their recording was thought to be the first in the United States to be produced, broadcast, and recorded in HDTV. The broadcast spread across the U.S. through the public television networks. It is likely to be part of public television’s Christmas offerings in various markets again this year. We hope to do a new broadcast recording in 2013 if funding is available.
What do I enjoy about Festival of Christmas? Several things! I enjoy the quality of music skillfully performed by our students and led by amazing conductors. The amount of work that goes into preparation really pays off! I enjoy knowing the students from other contexts. Performers include students who are involved in athletics, study abroad, theater, student government, Residence Life, worship leading, and a wide variety of majors. It is fun to watch a physics major in the percussion section, a pre-med major singing bass, a literature major on the viola, or a Spanish major on a horn. I enjoy the various groups we honor in different performances.
The Friday performance is a special “Thanks” for our employees, and the Saturday performances honor donors and other friends of Bethel. Of course, family and friends provide the underpinning that get students into and through Bethel! This year is special for me because my mom is coming from Oklahoma to be part of Festival of Christmas for the first time. She will be the one smiling and introducing everyone to “her son, the president!”
I can hardly wait! I have already heard the closing number. We’ll all leave humming it and smiling! It will be a great concert done to the glory of God—and great fun for all who are part of it.