For some people, the holiday season began way back with the Thanksgiving leftovers. But for hundreds of Orange County residents, it was all about Chapman University’s 49th Annual Holiday Wassail Banquet and Concert, presented this past weekend in two sold-out performances.
“This begins it. Christmas is now ready to go,” said city of Orange resident Barbara Parker, who graduated from Chapman in 1963. Parker, along with her husband, Bill, a 1952 alumnus, has attended the concert every year since its beginning.
“It’s because the music is great, the kids are spectacular. We just love it,” she said, sipping the hot wassail traditionally served at the pre-banquet reception in the Fish Interfaith Center.
And the audience for this year’s Wassail will soon extend to all of Southern California, thanks to the university’s new partnership with independent public television station KCET. The first joint project of KCET and Chapman will be a special broadcast of the Wassail concert — along with highlights from Winterfest — which will air on the station Dec. 19 at 8 p.m., Dec. 20 at 1:30 p.m., Dec. 23 at 4:30 p.m., Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 8 p.m.
The holiday concert begun by William Hall, DMA, founding dean and artistic director for the Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts, has also grown into a collaborative project for Conservatory of Music students. Under the direction of faculty conductors, all of the conservatory’s major groups perform in the show, including the University Choir and University Singers, University Women’s Choir and the Chapman Chamber Orchestra.
Students even head up a decorating committee and work with Rick Christophersen, administrative director for the College of Performing Arts, to plan table décor, menus and the arrangement of the luminary path that guides guests from the dinner in the Fish Interfaith Center to the concert in Memorial Hall. Music major Shannon Bruce ’13, a member of the University Singers, headed up the student committee and says it opened new doors of creativity.
“It’s been really good to give the students a chance to work together outside of music. This gives us another chance to be creative,” she said.
And the students did not disappoint. Inside the Wallace All Faiths Chapel, where the dinner was served, the tables glowed with gold centerpieces. Student carolers in Dickensian costumes circulated among the tables, regaling diners with traditional carols. Following dinner, guests followed a luminaria path to Memorial Hall.
Crowning the evening was the concert, which included a program of traditional and classical selections, several audience sing-alongs and a holiday reflection by Stephen Coker, DMA, director of choral activities, the University Choir and University Singers. Angel M. Vazquez-Ramos, Ph.D., led the University’s Women’s Choir, and Daniel Alfred Wachs led the Chapman Chamber Orchestra.