From Dec. 5-7 Gustavus will host its annual Christmas in Christ Chapel (commonly referred to as C in CC) services. The theme for this year’s performances is “Joyeux Noel: A Feast of French Music, Art and Culture” and will be a celebration of the Nativity of Christ through French music and motifs.
The services will feature performances from the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, the Handbell Choir, Lucia singers, the Choir of Christ Chapel, the Gustavus Choir, Gustavus Brass and assorted dancers. Five performances are scheduled with 1,200 guests expected at each. With so many guests and performers, Christmas in Christ Chapel is one of the biggest events on campus each year.
“It is one chance for our entire community to celebrate together,” said Chaplain Brian Johnson, one of the artistic directors of Christmas in Christ Chapel.
Christmas in Christ Chapel has been a tradition at Gustavus since 1973. It is a culmination of the efforts of student performers, the Office of the Chaplains, the Department of Music and the Office of Marketing and Communications. The services will include 300 student musicians and about 350 total participants.
“This is definitely the biggest performance of the year,” said Sophomore Music Major and trumpet player Erik Gustafson.
The finale, a combined performance of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” is a thunderous conclusion to the program. “It gives me goose bumps every time,” said Gustafson. The sheer size of the event gives students a unique opportunity to perform with a large number of their peers in front of a very large audience.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Sophomore Samantha Sayler, “and we get to play really loud, which I like.” Individual groups within the music department have been learning their songs and routines since early fall, and full rehearsals for the event began in late November and have taken place three times a week until the final performances this weekend.
“We have an awesome music department,” said Junior Music Major and Lucia singer Ashley Tibbetts. Each group, along with its conductor, must rehearse thoroughly before combining with the full assembly.
“They know it is a lot of work,” said Professor of Music Greg Aune, who is also the conductor of the Gustavus Choir and one of the artistic directors for Christmas in Christ Chapel. “It is also very rewarding.”
Each year a unique theme is chosen to facilitate worship and to help attendees explore the religious traditions of other cultures. The theme of “Joyeux Noel” was chosen in part by Chaplain Johnson, and music was selected by the Department of Music at the end of last year.
The theme was selected because Gustavus has never hosted a French-themed Christmas in Christ Chapel performance, and because of Chaplain Johnson’s interest in a certain French tradition.
Each year in the south of France, over 100,000 young adults make pilgrimages from across Europe to a city called Taizé, where young Christians gather to explore and strengthen their spirituality.
“This is a great chance for people to experience music and culture from France,” said Johnson, a 1980 graduate of Gustavus who has been serving as a Gustavus chaplain since 1996. “I think it is important for there to be learning involved.”
The program for Christmas in Christ Chapel includes one service Friday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m., two services Saturday, Dec. 6 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. and two services Sunday, Dec. 7 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. It is one of Gustavus’ biggest events of the year, and spectators go to great lengths to attend.
“I think it is one of the signature events of our college,” said Dr. Aune.
The first ticket is free to students. Additional tickets must be purchased in advance and are available online at the event calendar or by mail-in registration form.