By Zack Gentry
Christmas at Concordia, the annual event at the St. John Lutheran Church in Seward that brings people together from around the area to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the start of the holiday season, was performed by Concordia students for an enthusiastic crowd on Sunday.
The concert includes Concordia choirs and bands that perform a mix of Christmas songs and hymns, scripture readings and original music.
Concordia pole vault coach Jason Berry and his family has been coming to Christmas at Concordia for about 10 years, ever since his two sons performed. Berry said that it has been fun and exciting.
“Our boys used to play in the band when they were in school here at Concordia, so it ended up turning into a tradition for the family and [we] just keep coming back,” Berry said.
Seward resident Lana Urban missed the past couple of years but was finally able to return this year.
“I was excited to come back and watch the performance,” Urban said. “The band was tremendous, and the bell choir was over the top.”
The concert included a lot of interaction between the audience and bands singing hymns together and reading scriptures.
“A part of what makes this experience so special is that it’s an interactive experience with the audience, and the band and choirs really feed off of that,” said senior A Cappella member Gillian Mettenbrink. “All of the time that we spend perfecting the music really pays off when we get to perform and be a small part of making a difference in people’s lives.”
Music professor Dr. Kurt von Kampen put together a performance that was filled with a lot of energy.
“It’s a great honor. It’s one of the best blessings teaching at Concordia to get to lead the students and do something so profound, and the public gets to share the work that we have done, giving recognition for all the work that we have done,” von Kampen said.
Band member Jayson Klauman said that it is surreal being able to perform at this event one last time and to be able to perform after his brother did it a few years ago for this same event.
“Overall, it’s a blessing to be able to put on a show and program like this,” Klauman said. “My brother went here before I did, so I have been participating at Christmas at Concordia for around eight years. It’s just a blessing to be able to listen to the groups and now, to be able to play in the group is somewhat surreal, especially being my last time too, so some of the feelings haven’t processed yet.”
Music professor Dr. Jeff Blersch and adjunct professor of music Paul Soulek said people look forward to coming to Christmas at Concordia every year.
“Absolutely, I was just talking to another couple that I know, and they have been coming every year for as long as I have been here, which has been 21 years,” Blersch said. “They have made a tradition to stake out their spot at Cattle Bank to get tickets, and they make a little party out of it every October when the tickets go up for sale.”
“Yes, it’s like a family reunion for me, too,” Soulek said. “I’ve seen people I used to go to college with and then people I have directed in choirs here, and then our families that come to support our students. It’s neat to see it all come together and experience it every year and look forward to it more.”
Bekah Guilford, a part of the band and A Cappella choir, said she’s been preparing for the concert since early October and there are both logistics and music to consider.
“I’m both a member of the band and the A Cappella choir, and we are all divided into sections, so each of our sections has also been doing some outside prep work for this event,” Guilford said. “It’s really special to be a part of an event where we are celebrating the birth of Christ, and we get to celebrate that through our music.”