Choirs bring Christmas cheer to community and beyond


image6Warm melodies of holiday cheer fill the chilly winter ait. ‘Tis the season for the Augustana Christmas Vespers.

The Christmas season has its fair share of traditions, whether it is decorating the tree or baking cookies. The Augustana Music Department has its own way of being part of those traditions: Christmas Vespers.

To those who have been around Augustana and Sioux Falls for years, the Vespers performance has become a part of their holiday season. 

“A lot of people say that Vespers is what gets their Christmas season started,” Paul Nesheim, conductor of the Augustana Choir, said.

In celebration of the birth of Christ, a portion of the music department will deliver the performance for the Sioux Falls community and Augustana. Then, the choirs will head north to share their music and worship with those in the Twin Cities.

According to Russell Svenningsen, conductor of the University Chorale, the planning for this production started last year, immediately after the 2016 Vespers.

“The effort and thought the music department offers to the community with this performance is really a labor of love, expressed through music and the birth of Christ,” Svenningsen said. 

The title for the performance is “Be Born in Us Today” and touches the season’s theme: the birth of Jesus.

“Each year we try to find new ways to proclaim the same message,” Nesheim said. “Which the main purpose, of course, is the birth of Christ.” 

With Vespers running a deep tradition at Augustana, an emotional bond has been built between some of the upperclassmen performers.

Seniors Caitlin Janssen, Benjamin Trenne and Brock Morgan have been in choir during their four years at Augustana and hold current officer positions in their ensembles. The link they have to the choirs has made their last Vespers an emotional experience. 

“Vespers is the main event that many of us look forward to,” Janssen said. “This being my last year makes me very sad.”

Much of the students’ time is dedicated to this performance and, overall, they have a strong connection with the performance.

“It’s hard to explain the experience of Vespers,” Trenne said. “It’s during finals and you have all this homework, but you forget it all once you start singing such beautiful music.”

Freshman Lauren Sandison said she has no clue as to what to expect from the Vespers since this is her first year.

“It won’t hit freshmen right away how great Vespers is but then around the last night’s performance it will hit them that someday they won’t be able to do this anymore,” Morgan said. 

The musical performance features the four Augustana choirs and the university’s orchestra. There are four performances scheduled in Sioux Falls on Dec. 1 through 3 at 7 p.m., 3 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively at Our Saviors Lutheran Church and one performance on Dec. 15, at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minn.


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