Spreading holiday cheer for the 40th year

Concert brings music department together to continue musical tradition

Spreading holiday cheer for the 40th year


Story by Rachel Streich, Chief Copy Editor

While jingle and sleigh bells begin to ring on the radio, musical ensembles on campus continue preparations for an annual performance giving audiences the chance to hear the sounds of the holidays live at UW-Eau Claire.

Students will soon sing and play traditional tunes in an arena, while the crowd even gets the opportunity to join in with its best singing voices.

For its 40th year, the Holiday Concert will take place at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday in Zorn Arena. Five choirs as well as the wind symphony and the symphony orchestra come together for the event that has lasted one winter after the next.

Symphony orchestra conductor Nobuyoshi Yasuda is in his 24th year of conducting for the concert and said this year is one to look forward to just as the others have been. He said it is an uplifting tradition for the community and the campus to enjoy.

“It’s a moment when people can share holiday spirit through music,” he said.

Yasuda said it is a fun, less serious concert in which the ensembles perform on their own as well as altogether for the final piece titled “The Joy of Christmas.” The conductors of the last big piece change every year, and this year John Stewart, the wind symphony conductor, will conduct the whole group.

Colin Marusek, a senior trombonist, said this culmination of musical talent is something to look forward to, as he has played in both the wind symphony and symphony orchestra for the concert before.

Through each concert, he said he has seen how the event has been rewarding for students and community members.

“I just feel like I appreciate it more every year,” he said, “and being a part of something and realizing it’s just as special every year is really cool.”

As audience members gather from around the community, Marusek’s parents will make the trip from Chicago for the first time to see the concert.

Robin Leary, assistant secretary of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board of directors, helps with behind-the-scenes aspects of the event and said attendees consistently give good feedback.

“We have a lot of folks tell us that they think the holiday season begins once they’ve attended the concert,” she said.

For Becca Mortensen, a junior and member of women’s concert chorale, the event does just that, even though the end of the semester is a hectic time for students, she said.

Mortensen said the practice that goes into the event is worth the final outcome, which she noted demonstrates the enthusiasm of the students.

“It’s just exciting to see everyone so excited about what they’re doing and all in one place,” she said.

New this year, Frank Watkins, lecturer of choral music and music education, conducts women’s concert chorale as well as women’s chorus and symphonic choir. Gary Schwartzhoff, professor of music and director of choral activities, conducts concert choir and the singing statesmen.

Mortensen said Watkins is a good addition and she trusts his first time conducting in the Holiday Concert will be positive for the choir. She also said it is fun to see a big crowd enjoying the music.

Audience members can give back to the community as well by bringing books to donate to the L.E. Phillips Library as part of the Give a Kid a Book project.

As he looks ahead, Yasuda said the event brings people together in good spirits, and he hopes it continues for many years to come.