By Doug Carroll
Photos by Jak Keyser
No instrument sounds more beautiful than the trained human voice, and GCU’s four choirs left no doubt about that on Friday night in a heavenly Christmas concert at nearby First Southern Baptist Church.
“Gloria!” featured the New Life choir, the Canyon Singers, the Canyon Chorale and the Choral Union, the latter three groups under the expert direction of Assistant Dean Juan Hernandez of the College of Fine Arts and Production.
The 90-minute concert ended with a triumphant, three-movement rendition of John Rutter’s cantata “Gloria,” sung entirely in Latin and received with a standing ovation at its conclusion.
The church’s sanctuary, festooned in seasonal greenery and lights, resembled a concert hall. The large crowd recognized the significance of the occasion — the first Christmas concert by the re-formed fine-arts college at the University — and responded with enthusiasm and heartfelt appreciation.
As the choirs changed places, Hernandez kept the mood light and festive by sharing some of the history of Christmas carols.
The Choral Union — the largest of the four choirs — is GCU’s community chorus, made up of students, staff and community members. The Chorale consists of GCU music majors. The smaller Canyon Singers formerly were known as the President’s Singers. New Life, the University’s traveling ensemble under the direction of the multitalented Gabe Salazar, emphasizes pop and contemporary worship.
Several students were in three of the choirs Friday, and a few sang in all four.
The program began with rousing versions of “Rise Up, Shepherd” and “Joy to the World” from New Life. The Canyon Singers then performed four songs, including an exquisite arrangement of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” by English composer R. Vaughan Williams and a jaunty “A Celtic Noel” by Michael Barrett.
Classic renditions of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “The First Noel” by the Canyon Chorale were powerful in their simplicity, summoning memories of Christmases long ago. The Choral Union’s “A Manger Suite,” by popular Christian singer-songwriterMichael W. Smith, was enhanced by readings of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke.
That set the stage for the grand finale of “Gloria,” which gave the concert the high-spirited finish that the season’s music demands in a concert setting.
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.