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Celebrate Christmas, Celebrate Christ

by Briauhnna A. Phelps

Celebrate Christmas, an APU tradition for more than 20 years, kicked off the evening of Friday, December 3, 2010. Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena decked its halls with Christmas cheer in honor of the concert series. Members of the APU Chamber Singers dressed in Dickens costumes and charmed audience members with Christmas carols in the lobby while members of Men’s Chorale served as valets, and the ladies of Bel Canto Women’s Choir welcomed concertgoers into the sanctuary.

Originally featuring just the University Choir and Orchestra (UCO), Celebrate Christmas has grown to include most of the APU School of Music ensembles, including the Bel Canto Women’s Choir, Men’s Chorale, Handbell Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Vocal Jazz, Oratorio Choir, and more. With more than 400 musicians participating this year alone, it is by far the largest event of the year for the School of Music. This year, the ensembles took the stage Friday, December 3, and then again on Sunday, December 5, to the event’s first-ever sold-out crowd.

“This annual event helps kickoff the holiday season and is an opportunity to showcase the wonderful talent of our students and faculty,” said Robert Brigham, the School of Music’s director of marketing and concert administration. “It’s a proud moment for me personally to witness this exquisite concert annually and to know that I had a part in making it happen. The best part is that this is one event that draws together the gifts and talents of the entire School of Music, and it is a rare opportunity, indeed, to produce an entire program with so many collaborators.”

But Celebrate Christmas is more than just a set of concerts featuring Christmas music; it is a worship experience, where more than 5,000 individuals can come together to worship Christ the Savior and bring focus to what the Christmas season is all about.

“Celebrate Christmas is about acknowledging that God sent His Son to the world for our salvation,” said UCO member Alexa Funk ’14.

Funk and many other performers fervently support that Celebrate Christmas is an interactive worship service where the musicians feel just as blessed by the audience as the audience feels when they hear their favorite Christmas song being performed.

“Before Celebrate Christmas, I really had trouble feeling the cheer of the season,” said Men’s Chorale member Peter Fornos ’12. “But when I heard the applause and saw those smiles in the audience, I started to feel the joy of Christmas. They really blessed me.”

Celebrate Christmas has become an invaluable family tradition, both inside the School of Music and in the surrounding community. Said Matthew Olmstead ’10: “It’s a wonderful experience for the whole family.”