Barry McNamara  |  Published November 21, 2023

Christmas at Monmouth

Three opportunities in early December to celebrate the season at Monmouth College

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The holiday spirit will be in abundance at Monmouth College in December, with three Christmas events scheduled in a five-day span.

All three events – the traditional “Christmas at Monmouth” concert, a Jazz Ensemble concert titled “A Jazz Christmas?” and a Christmas worship service – will be held in the Kasch Performance Hall of Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. All are open to the public, and a $5 donation is suggested for “Christmas at Monmouth.” Audience members are also encouraged to bring a canned good, non-perishable food item or toy donation to support the Jamieson Community Center, for both the “Christmas at Monmouth” and Jazz Ensemble concerts.

All three events will be livestreamed on the College’s YouTube channel.

‘Christmas at Monmouth’

The College’s traditional Christmas concert will open the series of events at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2. Three vocal groups – the Chorale, Chamber Choir and Concert Choir, all under the direction of music faculty member Tom Clark – will perform, as will the Wind Ensemble and the Monmouth Civic Orchestra.

SPIRIT OF THE SEASON: Tom Clark brought a bit of holiday cheer to last year's Christmas at Monmouth concert... SPIRIT OF THE SEASON: Tom Clark brought a bit of holiday cheer to last year's "Christmas at Monmouth" concert, and he'll once again be on the stage Dec. 2, leading the College's vocal groups. Music professor Justin Swearinger, the College’s director of instrumental activities, said it won’t take long for audience members to shed whatever burdens they bring to the door and immerse themselves in the Christmas spirit.

“Dahl is already such a beautiful space, and then when the decorations go up, it just makes me think back to my grandma and aunt,” he said. “For the longest time, they’d put up the Christmas villages. When I walk into the space, especially with all the decorations, it just takes me right back to that.”

The Christmas standards that audience members know and love will also contribute to that feeling, but the directors of the holiday program have never shied away from introducing new or unusual selections. This year will be no different.

“The Wind Ensemble’s doing a piece by Julie Giroux called ‘Evening Snow at Kambara,’” said Swearinger. “It’s this beautiful Japanese-esque wind band piece that I know everybody will love.”

Another example will come from the Chorale, which will perform a portion of Daniel Pinkham’s “Christmas Cantata.”

All of the vocal and instrumental groups will come together to play a “rousing” concluding piece, said Swearinger, and that piece will be followed by the peace of the holiday season.

“We’ll end with the traditional playing of ‘Silent Night, as we go off in peace back into the real world,” he said.

‘A Jazz Christmas?’

Music faculty member Steve Jackson will lead what he described as a “full-sized jazz band” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5, with a program title that is a bit vague.

“None of the songs are actually, specifically, meant for Christmas, but they could be interpreted as such,” said Jackson, inflecting a question mark of his own at the end of his statement.

Examples include “A Child Is Born” by Thad Jones, “Footprints” by Wayne Shorter and “Shiny Stockings” by Frank Foster.

What’s not in question, he said, is the sound created by this year’s group of musicians.

STEVE JACKSON: The director of the College's Jazz Ensemble said his group is sounding great leading up to its Dec. 5 co... STEVE JACKSON: The director of the College's Jazz Ensemble said his group is sounding great leading up to its Dec. 5 concert in Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. “We have a really full program – probably an hour’s worth of jazz,” he said. “And we have a full band, with every section covered. This is the first time in years where we’ve really felt we’ve got a full-sized jazz band, with not only student participation but some other members of the community, as well. There’s a really great sound coming from the whole group,” which, for three selections, will also include Monmouth computer science professor Logan Mayfield, a member of the popular group Craig & Co.

Another featured performer will be A.J. Furness ’24 of Indianola, Iowa, who will contribute her vocal talents in addition to her percussion work.

“She has been a true gift to the music department since she arrived here,” said Jackson. “Phenomenal singer, phenomenal percussion player. She loves to sing in the style of jazz. She’s got a great feel for it and she brings people in. And she’s going to be playing vibraphone for most of the songs, as well.”

Christmas worship

The Christmas worship service will be led by Monmouth’s chaplain, the Rev. John Huxtable, at 7 p.m. Dec. 6.

“Everyone is invited to come together with the Monmouth College community as we celebrate this sacred season,” said Huxtable. “Our Christmas service will be centered on meditations, beautiful music by our Concert Choir, and congregational caroling.”

Watch It …

All three events will be livestreamed on the College’s YouTube channel.

Listen Up …

Head a preview of “Christmas at Monmouth” on the “Monmouth College Conversations” podcast.

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