Sacred Sounds of Christmas facilitates communal peace
Blue, gold, green and red flooded the concert hall. Clad in modest black, students, faculty and alumni delivered their musical talents for downtown Seattle.
Throughout the concert, the audience felt a combination of energy and contemplativeness, sealing the night with a standing ovation.
Musicians provided the audience with a memorable experience to open and celebrate the Christmas and Advent season.
The performance itself was a crescendo.
On Sunday, Nov. 25, at Benaroya Hall, Seattle Pacific University’s musicians delivered the annual Sacred Sounds of Christmas concert.
Artistically crafted, the concert was crafted to commemorate Jesus Christ and his birth.
To deliver the stories and messages with grace and beauty, several visuals accompanied the music.
During the concert, gold lights shrouded the room, reflecting off of instruments and accompanying the bolder notes of voices in the choir. Occasionally, the lighting would shift from mostly blue tones to mostly red, the red paired with stronger noise and the blue with calmer pieces.
Furthering crowd involvement with the orchestrated experience, the audience was called upon many times to rise and sing or clap along with the evening’s songs.
There were three short readings in addition to the musical selections. Each highlighted the overall theme in some way, or carried the performance through the story of Jesus’ birth and the various messages that many have taken from his story.
The show brought together many, young and old, to celebrate the coming season.
For directors Danny Helseth and Ryan Ellis, the process has been in the works for months, with preparation reaching back to last year at the end of fall quarter.
The concert, according to Helseth, was a “wandering journey,” intentionally creative in sound and presentation.
“What is unusual about this concert is that all of our choirs join together,” Ellis said.
He also described the various musical choices as “a real contrast of style.”
Sacred Sounds featured all styles of Advent celebration, including both devout hymns and lively, contemporary pieces.
Several conductors were part of each process, as well as students with multiple orchestra and choir responsibilities.
Together, Ellis, Helseth and artistic director Ruben Van Kempen worked to create fluid and unnoticeable transitions for those with multiple parts in the show in order to keep the focus on the theme of Advent and Christmas.
“It’s not about just one conductor, but about this message,” Helseth said.
In his written message, as part of the program for the night, SPU President Dan Martin mentions the show’s intent.
“[The] performance showcases the remarkable talent and hard work of our student and faculty musicians,” Martin said. “‘Sacred Sounds is a musical gift to our wonderful city, a city we delightfully embrace as our campus.”
Martin then followed the statement by inviting the audience to consider past Christmas seasons and anticipate the one approaching.
If there was one message Helseth said he hopes the SPU community will receive, it is one of unity this Christmas season, regardless of ethnicity, personal taste, upbringing or other distinctions.
“Take the time to find what we have in common rather than what we have in difference,” Helseth said. “Music is great because we can come together.”
SPU’s featured ensembles included the Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, Women’s Choir, Gospel Choir, Worship Band, Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra.
Together, they performed with vigor to set the Christmas season in motion for SPU.