November 25, 2019 by J.K. Devine
The annual University of North Georgia (UNG) Holiday Concert will feature musical performances by the UNG Chorale from UNG’s Gainesville Campus and the University Singers, Le Belle Voci, and the Patriot Choir from the Dahlonega Campus.
Christmas comes but once a year as does the annual University of North Georgia (UNG) Holiday Concert.
Residents in north Georgia will only have one chance to hear the talents of UNG’s singers and instrumentalists. Last year, the choirs presented afternoon and evening shows.
UNG’s music department will present a single performance at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at Grace Episcopal Church at 422 Brenau Ave., in Gainesville, Georgia. It is free and open to the public.
The performance will feature traditional hymns such as “Joy to the World” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and Holiday favorites “Winter Wonderland” with more contemporary pieces such as “The Waiting Sky.”
“All of them will resonate with our theme ‘The Spirit of a Child,'” said Dr. Benjamin Schoening, department head and associate professor of music. “Three readings will be centered on reflections of childhood and the experiences and reactions to the holiday.”
Performing the readings will be Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Dr. Richard Oates, vice president of UNG’s Gainesville Campus; and Dr. Shannon Gilstrap, associate department head and associate professor of English.
“This is the only time all year that all of the chorales will sing together,” Schoening said. “For me, it provides an opportunity for cross-collaboration as students get to work with a different director. And we all feel cohesive as one department and one UNG.”
Abigail “Abby” Johansen, a sophomore pursing a music degree, said the group collaboration creates a different experience for the singers because they normally perform in groups of 25 or less.
“Being able to sing in such a huge group, there is a sensation of doing something that you can’t do on your own,” said the 19-year-old from Gainesville, Georgia. “Having that many voices is powerful and meaningful. To hear the sounds of that is joy in my mind.”
The chorale groups are not the only ones in the spotlight during the concert. Faculty and student instrumentalists will shine as well. Groups and individuals performing include a brass quintet, UNG adjunct professor Dr. Bart Walterson soprano saxophone, student Cade Wilson on piano and part-time faculty member William Gotmer on organ. Accompanying the choirs will be collaborative pianists Vivian Doublestein and José Garcia.
Audience members may join the singing from time to time, Schoening said.
“We don’t want this to be a static experience,” he said. “The audience gets to be part of the program as opposed to sitting and listening to wonderful music. That communion with the audience and musicians is one of the things that makes this concert so special.”
This year, audience members will be part of the finale, which includes the candlelight portion of the performance. Schoening said it is his favorite part.
“There is such an effect of being in the dark and then being enveloped by light,” he said.
During that portion, the pieces “Night of Silence” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” will be performed.
Camden Pruitt, a senior pursuing a music education degree, said the concert is her favorite one of the year. The new tradition allows her and other members of Le Belle Voci to sing with UNG Chorale.
“I completed a semester on Gainesville Campus and this concert gives me a chance to sing with people from there and in Dahlonega,” said the 21-year-old from Woodstock, Georgia. “It makes my heart happy.”