The Baker University music and theatre department’s annual Christmas Candlelight Vespers isn’t just another concert; for the Baldwin City and Baker communities, it’s a time to come together and celebrate the holiday season.
Other vespers concerts
• Lawrence’s First United Methodist Church will present “Christmas Pipes,” a holiday vespers concert featuring organ music plus singing, brass and bells.
The performance of traditional and modern Christmas music is set for 5 p.m. Dec. 9 at the church, 946 Vermont St. Admission is free, but donations will be taken for Family Promise and the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Fund.
Tandy Reussner will play the church’s organ, which is the largest pipe organ in the state. The concert also will include vocal solos, a brass ensemble, a violinist, the Lawrence Medical Men’s Arts Chorus and the church’s Celebration Ringers.
The church has another holiday concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 16. “Holiday Touchstones” will feature the Fine Arts Chorale, initially founded in 1972 as an outgrowth of the former RLDS Auditorium Choral. A free-will offering will be taken.
• The Kansas University School of Music will present Jazz Vespers at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Ave.
Tickets are $7 each, or $5 for seniors and students. They can be purchased through the Lied Center ticket office, lied.ku.edu or 864-2787.
This year’s concert will feature the KU Jazz Ensemble I and Jazz Ensemble II, both directed by Dan Gailey, KU director of jazz studies; the KU Jazz Singers, directed by David von Kampen; and the KU Jazz Combo I, directed by Matt Otto. Also featured will be professor Chuck Berg, saxophone and master of ceremonies; professor Vince Gnojek, saxophone; professor John Stephens, voice; and KU School of Music Dean Robert Walzel, clarinet and saxophone.
Holiday favorites such as “Sleigh Ride,” Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers,” and “What Child Is This?” will be among songs included in the program.
“It is such a community tradition and it really hits that small-town feeling of Baldwin when you have so many people who have been coming to Vespers for years,” senior choir member Krystina Townsend says.
Baker will host its 82nd annual Christmas Candlelight Vespers Sunday at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Rice Auditorium, 404 Eighth St. on the Baldwin City campus. It will include performances by the university’s orchestra, choirs, the speech choir and the brass, jazz and percussion ensembles.
Director of Choral Activities Matthew Potterton says that not only do many in the Baldwin City community attend the concert, but many Baker alumni come back for the event.
“It is kind of like the homecoming football game of the music department,” Potterton says. “People who have been a part of this previously, it’s time for them to come back, remember those times and still be a part of that tradition.”
The concert this year is breaking tradition a little bit, though. For the first time, Vespers will not be at First United Methodist Church, but in Rice Auditorium. The change is because the demand for seats and size of the program have grown. The university wanted to allow as many people as possible to attend the program rather than continue to have the concert at the church and have to turn guests away at the door.
“It’s become a standard part of the Christmas and holidays,” Townsend says. “It doesn’t feel like the Christmas season has started until we’ve done our vespers concert. It really puts us in the Christmas mood.”
Vespers will feature traditional Christmas music as well as pieces that aren’t as well-known. A special musical piece that will be performed was written specifically for Baker University’s music department by composer Mark Hayes. The piece was premiered last year, but this year’s performance will be special because Hayes will be in the audience.
“To have someone of his caliber to come to our concert is an honor,” Potterton says. “He’s a big name in music and he’s going to be there.”
Potterton suggests arriving about 45 minutes or an hour early to ensure an optimum seat for the performance. Prelude music for the concert begins 30 minutes prior to the shows, too.
“If people come early, they’re going to be hearing good music,” Potterton says.
The concert runs roughly one hour and 15 minutes. It is free and open to the public.