Photo description: Concordia’s A Cappella Choir, directed by Dr. Kurt von Kampen
Photo credit: Esther Molina
Hope Nelson, Josiah Horvath, and Bailey Mooney
Four Christmas at Concordia concerts over the course of three days earlier this month featured performances by some of CUNE’s most talented instrumental and vocal musicians, leaving audiences with the joy of the season and, as one person put it, a feeling of a little “heaven on earth.”
“It’s a joy to be [at Christmas at Concordia],” said Professor Robert Cody, the newest member of Concordia’s music faculty and its director of instrumental
music. “I heard somebody say today that they felt like it was literally heaven on earth, and
that’s how it feels to me too.”
Each concert featured choral selections from the Cantamus Women’s Choir, the Male Chorus, and the A Cappella Choir. The Wind Symphony and Concordia Handbell Choir provided instrumental music.
There also were several student organists who accompanied the congregation and various choirs as they joined together in singing several traditional hymns, including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.”
Audience members, music faculty and student performers found the concerts to be deeply meaningful, whether they attended just one or performed in all four.
Curt Coddington, former pastor of Hillcrest Evangelical Free Church, ran a Bible study for 16 years where he and his wife invited college students to come to their home and talk about their faith. They estimated they made more than 100,000 cookies for the students over the years, before the family moved to Indiana last year.
“We’ve grown attached to the students. We are realizing how much we miss them,” said Coddington, who compared himself and his wife to surrogate parents for the students who attended the study.
“They asked us if we would come back for Christmas at Concordia, since so many of them are music students. So we said we would.”
Dr. Jeffrey Blersch, director of the Cantamus Women’s Choir and one of the event’s organists, said each concert is special in its own way.
“All of the Christmas at Concordia concerts, I think, are special because all of us work together to produce one product proclaiming the Word through music,” he said. “That’s what I look forward to most about these concerts.”
A Cappella member McKenna McSpadden, a senior, said the songs have an impact on people.
“The words are very meaningful, and getting to sing them with people who are meaningful to me is a very
important thing and something that I cherish a lot,” McSpadden said.
Audience members ranged from very young to old. One person, a former Christmas at Concordia participant, brought her two small children along, noting they would “almost certainly” attend Concordia one day.
“I have nine brothers and sisters, and eight of us came here!” she said.
Jeri Morrison, deaconess at St. John Lutheran Church where the concerts took place, said 2023 marked her third year coming to Christmas at Concordia.
“It was amazing!” she exclaimed. “It’s great to just be surrounded by the music.”
Dr. Elizabeth Grimpo, professor of music at Concordia and accompanist for the Male Choir and Cantamus Women’s Choir, said Christmas at Concordia is a way to remind people about the true meaning of Christmas.
“The truth of Christmas is lost in the world,” she said. “This is a good way to prepare our hearts for what it’s really for.”
Christmas at Concordia in particular, she said, “highlights the musical excellence of all our groups on campus.” The richness of the Bible readings during the event, she added, is very powerful and meaningful to a lot of people.
Other students like Abby Nugent, a Concordia senior and member of both the Wind Symphony and the Cantamus Women’s Choir, and Isaac Weander, a senior member of the Wind Symphony and the A Cappella Choir, agreed with the sentiments.
“Christmas at Concordia… is a time to perform music for the glory of God in community with other groups and ensembles here on campus, which isn’t something we get to do during the rest of the year,” Nugent said.
“I think that all of the pieces that each of the ensembles played and sang and chose fit together so well and told the story of Jesus’ birth so well that it makes it a very comprehensive story when we pair it with all the Biblical readings that we do,” Weander said. “It just makes it a very seamless show from beginning to end about our Savior and what the reason for the season is!”
Putting together such a well-loved series of concerts year after year is no easy feat, but Concordia’s music faculty, along with the event’s sponsors and hundreds of student performers, make it happen.
“I really enjoyed all the preparation that all the directors put into this,” said freshman A Cappella member Robert Wagner. “The work that all of my fellow choir people put into this was really well-noticed.”
Overall, everyone who contributes to Christmas at Concordia is happy to put in the work that goes into making the event happen each year.
“That’s what we’re here to do,” said Cody. “[It] is to allow people to feel in a visceral way the joy and gift of music, and to have it access their soul, and have the Word enter their soul through that.
It’s a beautiful thing.”