Artist Series to bring holiday cheer to BJU

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Artist Series to bring holiday cheer to BJU

Photo: Lindsay Shaleen

Carols and Classics, a Christmas-themed Concert, Opera & and Drama Series event, will feature both well-known Christmas songs and a new arrangement composed for the concert, which will be held on Thursday and Friday.

Dr. Bruce Cox, head of the department of instrumental studies, will direct the Symphonic Wind Band, Concert Choir and University Singers together in concert.

At the beginning of the planning process, Cox developed an objective for the event. “Glorify God and bring joy to His people by celebrating His incarnation specifically and the season broadly,” it reads.

“I want to bring glory to God and delight his people through the celebration of His incarnation, both specifically theologically and the season generally,” Cox said. “People really need the hope and joy of celebrating Christ’s incarnation.”

Photo: Lindsay Shaleen

Many of the pieces will be familiar to guests of all ages and tie into the Christmas season, thus the title Carols and Classics.

The idea and outline of the program was born in the spring of 2020, but due to COVID-19, the production was moved to this academic year.

In the meantime, Cox selected pieces for two University choirs to perform together and standalone pieces for the wind band. 

Dr. Pattye Casarow, the head of the department of music education, conducts the University Singers, which will perform songs with the Concert Choir for the Artist Series event.

“The collaboration of the wind band and the choir— that’s not done very often.” Casarow said. “We sing with orchestra more than we do with wind band. So that’ll be nice and different and out of the ordinary.”

But this Artist Series has a unique musical feature.

“But I think one touch that I wanted to have was the creation of a new piece just for this program, and that is an arrangement of the ‘Wexford Carol,’ which is probably my favorite Christmas carol,” Cox said. “Dr. Seth Custer has crafted a new arrangement of that carol for the wind band, and I think the students will really enjoy that new setting.”

Custer, the department head of the department of music theory and technology, worked on remixing the elements in the “Wexford Carol” until he crafted an original composition.

“I usually start by sitting down with the material that I want to use and improvise with it to see what things I could do beyond the obvious,” Custer said. “Then I try to develop a familiarity with everything I want to do and a bank of ideas, so to speak. As I start fleshing out the piece, certain ideas tend to emerge more prominently.”

Photo: Lindsay Shaleen

“It’s a beautiful, haunting melody—gorgeous,” Casarow said. “It originally was a traditional Irish carol.”

Listeners can hear the carol’s Irish roots in the structure of the music itself.

“This sort of [arrangement] is often heard in folk music, but less common to a typical classical or romantic style,” Custer said. “It has a kind of antique, quaint sound to it, which pairs nicely with this Irish carol.”

Cox said the first half of the program will feature sacred music, while the second half will consist of secular songs. “So in the first half, [we’re] using poetry and scripture to kind of weave our way through the story of … Christ’s incarnation,” Cox said. “And just to give it a beautiful flow, instead of waiting on the wind band to just change pieces, it’ll just progress so logically, so obviously.”

Dr. Lonnie Polson, a faculty member in the Division of Communication, and Kate Jones, a theatre graduate student, will share the narration portions for the event.

Cox believes the program will offer students an opportunity to enjoy hearing their fellow students perform and partake in the arts.  Cox said, “I’m glad that the University values beauty and high culture, and we want to contribute this program to the BJU student experience.”