Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Vespers concert Dec. 7

Wheaton presents its annual holiday Vespers concert on Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m.

By Amy Dumont '09

VespersFor more than 50 years, Wheaton has presented its annual Vespers concert. The tradition brings together the entire campus and local community to celebrate the holidays. The Wheaton Chorale and Chamber Singers will present this year's concert on Sunday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Cole Memorial Chapel. This season, there is even more to celebrate: 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of the Wheaton Chorale, which was formed when the college became co-educational.

The name Vespers derives from the Latin word for evening, and is traditionally the name of the evening prayer service. However, the Vespers tradition at Wheaton is no longer a religious ceremony. Associate Professor of Music and Choral Director Tim Harbold has adjusted the tradition to better reflect diverse cultures and beliefs.

"My goals for Vespers have been to present educationally significant literature, to uphold the sense of meaningful holiday tradition that has defined the event in the past, and to broaden its boundaries to better reflect our diverse campus community today," he said.Vespers

The model for Wheaton's Vespers program comes from the Christian "Lessons and Carols" service, which alternates carols and songs with readings from the Biblical Christmas story. In Wheaton's new version of the service, the readings usually come from secular poetry, and the repertoire is chosen from both the sacred and the secular. The service reflects a host of traditions and customs. Within the program are structural units, each containing two or more choral songs, a reading and a song that includes the audience. These units are organized by commonalities in either cultural traditions or textual themes.

Sacred music is a large portion of the choral literature, and remains an important part of Vespers, but in assembling the program Harbold looks for elements of the holidays that are cross-cultural. These elements are then incorporated into selected songs and readings. In the past, Vespers has celebrated themes such as seasons, stars, bells, flowers, lullabies, awakenings or celebrations. The diverse selections have spanned six continents and 10 centuries.

This year, the common focuses will be on animals and musical instruments. Music to be featured includes: Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb," Purcell's "Come, Ye Sons of Art" and much more. In keeping with tradition, the Vespers readings will be done by members of the Wheaton community. In the past, President Ronald A. Crutcher, provosts, deans and alumnae/i have participated in the presentation.

Campus pathways will be lined with sparkling lights from another Wheaton tradition: Luminaria. A reception will follow the concert in the Balfour-Hood atrium. Combined with the music and spirit of the evening, the night is sure to be a festive occasion, and a great opportunity for Wheaton and the local community to gather and reflect, said Harbold.