Seasons Greetings

‘Season’s Greetings’ Rang Through Wilson Hall

The Music and Theatre Arts Department presented “Season’s Greetings,” their annual holiday concert, on December 8 on the decorated Grand Staircase in Wilson Hall.

“Season’s Greetings” was a collection of songs performed by students such as the Chamber Singers and Concert Chorus under the direction of David Tripold, chair, associate professor of Music and Theatre Arts, and the Chamber Orchestra directed by Michael Gillette, specialist professor of Music and Theatre Arts.

The night also featured The Harmonic Joules, the University’s Glee Club and The Exultation Ringers of the Colts Neck Reformed Church.

Tripold said the “concert is a special collaboration of music directors and students who assemble a program of seasonal music to be presented each year in the magnificent setting of Wilson Hall.”

Family members, friends and students filled the first floor of Wilson Hall with some onlookers peering down from the balcony.

The night started with bass soloist Brendan Moore graciously singing the J.S. Bach piece “Grosser Herr und starker Konig” from Christmas Oratorio with plenty of slurs to make a smooth legato.

Moore was followed by mezzo soprano Jasmine Walker taking center stage and tenor as well as piano accompanist Justin Sanford performing a slow R&B rendition of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” After Walker belted out the final note, the crowd was left roaring.

“[Walker] did such a great job with the song,” said Jaclyn Kaminski, a resident of Howell. “It was an awesome way to start the concert and my favorite part of the night.”

The University Chamber Singers then took the floor to perform “See, Amid the Winter Snow,” accompanied only by a piano and conducted by Moore. Then Tripold conducted the singers in a very uplifting and fun version “Deck the Hall” and “Jingle Bells” with plenty of calls and responds between the female and male vocalists, which lead to a great buildup as they dashed through the song.

Professor/violinist Gillette and student/violinist Jaclyn Ruggierello played some elegant pieces together as they sprinkled the air with some classical music. Gillette explained during pieces that the violins are playing at varying speeds to not confuse audience members as one plays more swiftly than the other.

Gillette then conducted the Chamber Orchestra in two splendid pieces, “Prelude to Die Meistersinger” by Richard Wagner and “Overture and Hornpipe” from the Water Music Suite written by George Frideric Handel.

Gillette held his violin and joined in at times as the orchestra played through their grand tones that resonated from the ceiling. Plenty of dissonant tones created a foggy walk through the park to come out a field of falling snow.

After an intermission, the audience was welcomed back by The Harmonic Joules, led by Glee Club president Walker, with a fun version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” A male vocalist wearing a fedora and singing with style took the lead as two bodyguards tried to keep away other female vocalists from getting their hands on him. The Harmonic Joules then did an acapella version of “Carol of the Bells.”

“The Harmonic Joules were my favorite performers of the night,” said Dave Leiman, a resident of Aberdeen and family friend of one of the students performing. “The way they did ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ was something I’ve never heard before, and they seemed to have a lot of fun with it.”

The University Concert Chorus then took the staircase, dressed in their navy blue robes under the direction of Tripold and accompanied on piano by his wife, Maggie. The chorus’s sweet voices filled the halls of Wilson as they graciously went through dynamics in “Gloria” and “Mary, Go Tell It!” with a gospel swing tone that shows their heavenly talent.

There was a little break for a pleasant solo by cantor singer Ross Bernstein as he sang in Hebrew while he lit a different candle until the Menorah was fully lit, performing “Lighting the Menorah,” “Blessing of the Candles,” and “Ma’oz Tsur.”

While the Menorah shined bright through the rest of the evening performance, violinist Ruggirello came out to accompany the choir in “Hanukkah Flame,” a very moving piece that put the audience in the cold wintery night.

Tripold said this year’s performance was “magical” for him.

“Everyone outdid themselves, reaching levels our artistic expression that I had not been previously heard,” said Tripold. “I was especially moved by Ross Bernstein’s lighting of the Hanukkah menorah and his brilliant cantoring.”

The Exultation Ringers of The Colts Neck Reformed Church under the direction of Maggie, took center stage with giant bells, big shiny ones commonly used to gather donations for the Salvation Army and small ones that still resonate beautifully. They performed three songs that were euphoric and soothing like “For Unto Us a Child is Born” by George Handel that were also exciting to watch as the Ringers shook and drummed on their bells.

For the grand finale, the Concert Chorus joined the Exultation Ringers in “Noel Festival” featuring traditional French and English Noel carols and a traditional African folksong. When they came together, it was sweet music to the audience’s ears as the crowd gave a standing ovation with a roaring applause.

“This was our 13th holiday concert in Wilson Hall. In general I would say we get better each year,” David said. “Our audiences have grown to capacity crowds.”