Baylor School of Music's Christmas Concert Season Provides Tradition and Celebration
From the Baylor Symphony Orchestra and choirs to handbells and A Cappella and chamber singers, Baylor School of Music students perform an array of Christmas concerts across campus
WACO, Texas (Nov. 15, 2022) – Christmas time at Baylor University is filled with traditions heralding the birth of Jesus Christ. The Baylor School of Music adds to the festivities with an array of Christmas concerts that range from the sold-out performances of the popular "A Baylor Christmas" and Chamber Singers Christmas Concert to the Baylor Bronze Handbell Concert and the 48 bells of the McLane Carillon sounding out across campus.
The official tradition of Christmas music performances at Baylor dates to 1963, with the debut of the Combined Choirs Christmas Concert, followed in 1966 by the Chamber Singers Christmas Concert. The combined choirs concert eventually grew into what is now known as "A Baylor Christmas," which brings together all of the talented student performers for this highly anticipated concert in Jones Concert Hall.
"Since my arrival as dean of the School of Music in 2015, the performances of 'A Baylor Christmas,' presented in Jones Concert Hall, and the 'Chamber Singers Christmas Concerts' in Armstrong Browning Library, were already established traditions, and they quickly became my favorite events to culminate each fall semester," said Gary Mortenson, D.M.A., dean of the School of Music.
For many, "A Baylor Christmas" starts their Christmas season. The celebration of Christmas music continues throughout the first two weeks of December with the Chamber Singers Christmas Concerts, Baylor Bronze Handbell Concert, Wind Ensemble Concert, a Christmas Carillon concert and other programs.
The tradition of "A Baylor Christmas"
Over the years, "A Baylor Christmas" has grown to become one of the most beloved campus performances.
The production is a culmination of the efforts of almost 400 people, including more than 300 students from the Choral Program, 80 Baylor Symphony Orchestra students and 20 faculty and staff, who have given their time, talent and skill to make this year's "A Baylor Christmas" a reality for a live audience.
"This year marks the return of the first in-person presentation of 'A Baylor Christmas' since 2019, and both students and the conductors are thrilled," said Lynne Gackle, Ph.D., director of choral activities, professor of ensembles and The Mary Gibbs Jones Chair in Music.
"The title of this year's production is 'Light Beyond Shadow,' and the music was intentionally selected to highlight the fact that, even though the pandemic cast a lasting shadow, the Light of Christ shines brightly beyond those shadows," Gackle said.
In 2003, the annual "Christmas at Baylor" concert was filmed on campus and broadcast nationwide on PBS, with an encore performance in 2004. In 2015, the Baylor School of Music joined Gray Television and KWTX-TV to record and televise the concert, which was renamed "A Baylor Christmas," on Gray TV affiliates throughout the country. Since then, the performance has grown in popularity, potentially reaching more than 20 million households during the Christmas season.
While "A Baylor Christmas" kicks off the Christmas music season at Baylor, the tradition continues through various other performances.
"Immediately after 'A Baylor Christmas,' we change course and present two Chamber Singers Christmas Concerts of 16 to 20 mixed voices in the Foyer of Meditation in Armstrong Browning Library," said Mortenson. "This allows us to make a perfect contrast from large-scale works to much more intimate presentations in two historic Baylor spaces of resonance and beauty."
Baylor University is fortunate to have strong programs throughout all of the Baylor School of Music offerings, Mortenson said.
"I'm grateful to the faculty and staff who support our students in all the things we collectively do to make the Christmas Season meaningful for the campus and surrounding community," he said.
"A Baylor Christmas" and Chamber Singers Christmas Concerts are ticketed events, while the other concerts are free and open to the public.
- A Baylor Christmas has three performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building. The combined Baylor University Choirs and the Baylor Symphony Orchestra present sacred hymns and popular Christmas favorites, as well as a procession with candles and an audience sing-along of familiar carols. The concert features School of Music faculty C. Randall Bradley, D.M.A., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Music, professor of church music and director of the church music program and the Center for Christian Music Studies; Lynne Gackle, Ph.D., director of choral activities, professor of ensembles and The Mary Gibbs Jones Chair in Music; Miguel Harth-Bedoya, The Mary Franks Thompson Director of Orchestral Studies and music director of Baylor Symphony Orchestra; Brad Holmes, D.M.A., visiting professor of choral music; and Beth Holmes, visiting part-time lecturer of choral music. Tickets may be purchased at baylor.edu/tickets.
- Chamber Singers Christmas Concert has two performances: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, both at Armstrong Browning Library. Baylor's finest vocalists bring the Christmas spirit alive in the visually and aurally resplendent McLean Foyer of Meditation, led by Brad Holmes. Tickets may be purchased at baylor.edu/tickets.
- Piano Lab Christmas Recital at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, at Waco Hall in Recital Hall II. Join the Piano Lab for a Christmas recital. This event is free and open to the public.
- Baylor Bronze Handbell Concert at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, in Roxy Grove Hall at Waco Hall. The Baylor Bronze is dedicated to furthering excellence in the art of handbell ringing. Performers ring five octaves of Schulmerich handbells. The handbell ensemble is under the direction of Bob Avant, director of Baylor Bronze in the Baylor School of Music. This event is free and open to the public.
- Baylor’s Wind Ensemble Midwest Tour Preview Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, in Jones Concert Hall. This concert is leading up to the Wind Ensemble's appearance at The Midwest Clinic International Band, Orchestra and Music Conference on Dec. 19-22 in Chicago. Baylor’s Wind Ensemble was the only university band to be invited to the conference, and this concert is a special opportunity for the Baylor community to hear this performance. J. Eric Wilson, D.M.A., professor of ensembles and director of bands for Baylor School of Music, is conducting. This event is free and open to the public.
- Carillon Concerts – Three different carillon concerts will take place on the McLane Carillon in the tower of Pat Neff Hall and can be best experienced on Founders Mall or the covered walkway along the front of Draper Academic Building. Carillon and Caroling featuring University Carillonneur Lynnette Geary will be performed at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5. Song sheets will be provided for a program of traditional Christmas Carols. The Student Carillon Concert is set for noon Thursday, Dec. 8, presented by Abby Sitton and Dr. Paul Hagelstein. A Christmas Recital will be performed by Geary in honor of December 2022 graduates at noon Thursday, Dec. 15.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT THE BAYLOR UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Celebrating more than 100 years of musical excellence, the Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. Baylor's School of Music is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs include bachelor's and master's degrees in performance, music education and academic majors, as well as doctoral degrees in church music. Degrees leading to the Bachelor of Music Education conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency. Visit baylor.edu/music to learn more.