Through darkness, music prevails

Emma Esteb – Staff Writer

The cold weather has set in and Christmas is soon to be fast approaching. Christmas in Christ Chapel (CinCC) is an annual concert and tradition that features the Gustavus Choir, Choir of Christ Chapel, Christ Chapel Ringers, Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, Lucia Singers, and dancers. Rehearsals for the event are underway and tickets are on sale as of Monday, Nov. 1.
Christmas in Christ Chapel 2021 “places our stories of lament and meaning-making among the stories of the Divine” according to the Gustavus website. The theme for this year’s concert is “We Shall Go Forth Singing.” Professor in Theatre and Dance, Michele Rusinko, said this theme relates to the idea that “we have lived through, and continue living in challenging and unprecedented times.”
This year’s program embraces the theme of turning our lament into hope and courage both musically and liturgically. Through the nativity, we journey to a place of inspiration and good courage in order to come together in definice of the forces that try to tear us apart. “The last year and a half gave us a lot of grief with the COVID-19 Pandemic, political turmoil, and the death of George Floyd,” Gustavus Chaplain Maggie Falenschek said. Falenschek relates these obstacles to our own lament and finding the glimpses of hope and healing in a world where we are unsure.

The services for CinCC 2021 are 7:30 PM Thursday, Dec. 2, Friday, Dec. 3, Saturday, Dec. 4, and 3:30 Sunday, Dec. 5. The theme “We Shall Go Forth Singing” encompasses being definitely courageous as we suffer. The program’s inspiration and theme was created by Michele Rusinko and Maggie Flenschek as co-artistic directors. They began planning the service in January 2021 as they wanted to create the program they wished they could have produced last year.
COVID-19 created many limitations and restrictions last year during this time. CinCC was filmed October 2021 with all members maintaining six feet of physical distance. Though the production was still wonderful, it was not what they were dreaming of, Flenschek said.
There are still COVID limitations this year such as, all audience members 12 and over must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results, sales will be capped at 75% capacity to allow some physical distance between parties, and all audience members must wear a face mask. The event itself will also be live streamed online at 7:30 PM Saturday, Dec. 4 in partnership with Heroic Productions according to the Gustavus website. Gustavus is committed to creating an event full of joy and celebration, while also prioritizing the wellness of the performers and all who attend.

Rehearsals were underway as of Sunday, Oct. 31 and Choir of Christ Chapel member Junior Mikayla Zaske was “looking forward to seeing everything come together.” All choir groups were able to practice together for the first time this year on Sunday. “The first time seeing everyone all together can be a little scary, but the music itself sounds amazing thanks to the incredible directors,” Falenschek said.
The songs and music throughout the program have been hand-selected by the co-artistic directors and heads of the Choir. Not only that, the music is specifically picked and paired with dancers to enhance the visual elements of the program. Sophomore Jessica Herbrand is the featured solo dancer that performs throughout the service, giving visual representation of the ideas and themes of the service.
Specific pieces of music are assigned to be accompanied by featured dancers that create the production of CinCC. Senior Claire Drapeau and First-year Gabriella Schwakopf are doing a duet to a very rhythmic piece called Gaudete, performed by the Lucia singers, said Rusinko. Dr. Elisabeth Cherland reached out to Rusinko in the summer after selecting this piece of music stating that Gaudete was the most perfect number to be accompanied with dancers.
The production committee, designers, directors, and production staff all worked collaboratively in order for the vision of CinCC to come to life. These beginning stages bring exhilaration as it is “exciting to see what was once a spark of an idea become a reality” Rusinko said. This year’s program will feature a beautiful set designed by Lydia Francis, amazing costumes created by Larissa McConnell, scripture and text correlating with the spirit of the season and music grounding the service that will encourage audience members to go forth singing.

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