Concert shares festive spirit with community

UW-Eau Claire hosts annual Holiday Concert

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Photo by Sam Farley

All sections of the Eau Claire music and theater department worked together to carry out a concert on Sunday.

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As ushers brought attendees to their seats, the room was filled with the sounds of band members tuning their instruments. Not a seat in the arena was empty as community members crowded together and waited to hear the seasonal music.  

The UW-Eau Claire Department of Music and Theatre Arts performed their 43rd annual Holiday Concert at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3 in Zorn Arena.

Chancellor James C. Schmidt gave the commencement speech. He welcomed the audience, esteemed the music ensembles, thanked the department and invited the audience members to make this event a part of their annual holiday tradition.

Each year, the concert begins with a processional that brings all six choirs to center stage in front of the audience as a way to show how impactful their voices will be.

The Women’s Chorus, the Singing Statesmen and the Symphonic Choir, conducted by Elizabeth Joosten, began the Holiday Concert with traditional songs “I Saw Three Ships,” “The Little Drummer Boy” and “The Nutcracker.”

Piper Shaw, a sophomore music education – instrumental student and cellist in the university orchestra said she loves being a part of the campus tradition.

“I’ve played in the concert both last year and this year, and being able to hear a variety of different sounds and see people’s reactions in the audience is really cool,” Shaw said.

The Concert Choir, Novum Voce and the Women’s Concert Chorale, conducted by Frank Watkins, performed six songs. The University Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nobuyoshi Yasuda followed their performance.

The Wind Symphony conducted by John R. Stewart, the concert’s executive director, wrapped up the individual ensemble pieces with two songs, “Overture to a Winter Celebration” and the classic holiday song “Sleigh Ride.”

Stewart has been conducting at this concert for five years. He said the concert has many traditions, and this year’s performance was no exception.

“This concert is a way to bring the whole Haas community together,” Stewart said, “but then it’s our musical gift back to the community to kick off the holiday spirit.”

To wrap up the show, the choirs, orchestra and wind symphony combined to perform their last pieces in a medley titled “The Joy of Christmas.” Stewart said this blend of seasonal songs has been a part of the Eau Claire Holiday Concert since 1989.

Madeline Nelson, a first-year criminal justice student, said the last song was her favorite.

“I like how they incorporated everyone,” Nelson said. “They sounded really big, and you could tell everyone wanted to be there.”

Each year the department comes together and practices for a strict two and a half weeks to make the production possible.

The concert teamed up with Give-A-Kid-A-Book-Project of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library as a way to encourage audience members to bring a children’s book for collection and distribution to kids in need.

Next year, the concert will take place in the newly constructed Confluence Art Center located in downtown Eau Claire.