Barry McNamara  |  Published December 01, 2021

‘Christmas at Monmouth’ set for Dec. 4

College’s popular holiday concert is back live after missing an in-person performance in 2020 due to pandemic.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – “Christmas at Monmouth” is back in front of a live audience this year, and Monmouth College choral director Tim Pahel is thrilled for the underclassmen in the College’s various musical ensembles.

'CHRISTMAS AT MONMOUTH': Popular holiday concert returns to the Dahl Chapel stage on Dec.... 'CHRISTMAS AT MONMOUTH': Popular holiday concert returns to the Dahl Chapel stage on Dec. 4.“Many of our students haven’t had the in-person ‘Christmas at Monmouth’ experience,” said Pahel, who last year directed several videotaped performances as a fill-in after Monmouth students were sent home for the semester prior to Thanksgiving.

Freshmen and sophomores in the Chorale, Chamber Choir, Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble will experience their first in-person “Christmas at Monmouth” concert at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public, although there is a $5 suggested donation for non-students. Audience members are required to wear masks.

“It feels different, for sure, knowing that we’re going to be doing it in front of a live audience,” said Pahel. “From the beginning of rehearsals, we know that the end result is performing for people and sharing it directly with people. I think during the pandemic, there was a sort of vague feeling … that the videotaped performances wouldn’t have the same impact.”

An in-person event, especially one as well attended as the College’s annual Christmas concert, provides a different feeling for both the performers and the audience. Pahel plans to capitalize on that at the beginning and end of the concert, as well as throughout the evening.

TIM PAHEL: Monmouth's director of vocal activities leads a performance during Christmas... TIM PAHEL: Monmouth's director of vocal activities leads a performance during "Christmas at Monmouth" in 2019.“The Chorale is going to enter with a processional that creates a really cool atmosphere,” he said. “At the end, there will be a big arrangement of ‘Joy to the World,’ including an audience sing-along.”

The Chorale will also perform a piece from the Renaissance and a “dynamic” arrangement of the spiritual “Glory to the Newborn King,” featuring a solo by Gabriela Madu ’23 of Kingston, Jamaica.

Other highlights will include performances of “Midwinter” by Bob Chilcott, a “fun” jazz arrangement of “Jingle Bells” and an arrangement of the 15th-century English carol “Noel.”

“It’s always a balance between what I think the audience will like and what is a good educational experience for the students and what the students will love. We want the entertainment factor, but we also want the rich experience of learning all kinds of different music.” – Tim Pahel 

“We always have a variety of some things that are familiar and traditional with some things that are unusual,” said Pahel. “Part of the experience for the students being in these musical ensembles is that it’s an educational opportunity for them, so they’re learning about music of different cultures, music of different time periods. I want them not to just sing ‘Joy to the World’ or whatever for the next six weeks. So yes, do ‘Joy to the World,’ but also do music from different periods.”

Pahel said it’s a balancing act, but his vocal students and the College’s instrumental students always seem to hit the right notes at the popular holiday event.

“It’s always a balance between what I think the audience will like and what is a good educational experience for the students and what the students will love,” he said. “We want the entertainment factor, but we also want the rich experience of learning all kinds of different music.”

Watch It …

Watch the 2021 production of “Christmas at Monmouth.” Performance starts at 11:00.

Listen Up …

Tim Pahel previews “Christmas at Monmouth” on the 1853 Podcast.

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