More than fifty of Western’s music students and faculty performed a rousing set of classic holiday tunes in an orchestral and choral format near the end of Fall semester.   

By Matthew Eshed

On Tuesday Dec. 7, the Holiday Gala took place in the Kincaid Concert Hall. The annual concert featured the school’s Western Chamber Singers and Concert Choir, conducted by Heather Roberson, the Chamber Orchestra, directed by Kenneth Todd, and the Symphonic Band, conducted by Brett Keating. “I was very pleased with the performance and the energy the choir showed with each piece. The immediate applause from the audience was affirming of a job well done,” said Professor Roberson of the gala performances.  

The 200-seat concert hall was nearly half-full, appropriate in COVID-19 times, and the Gala featured familiar and obscure holiday tunes from around the world, such as Silent Night, composed by Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863) and arranged by Erik Morales, the Ukranian Bell Carol, arranged by Richard Saucedo, and Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, composed by John Gardener (1917-2011). 

After the show, a bake sale was held outside the concert hall, organized by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and accompanied by musical stylings of the Western Steel Pan Band, directed by Professor Benjamin Justis. The Band featured nine players: six on steel pans, and one each on guitar, bass, and drums.

The group also featured secret guest soloist Dr. Brett Keating, Director of Bands and Brass, on tenor saxophone. “The Western Steel Band is a really fun group open to all majors that plays calypso classics and pop songs. We love bringing the sound of the tropics to the Gunnison Valley!” says Dr. Justis. 

Over 30 singers on stage singing complex rhythms in harmony was both a visual and auditory experience to behold. The show had something for everyone, whether you are a lover of strings, brass, percussion, or vocals, packed into a tight 90-minute set. The student bands also showed off their stage changeover skills, deftly turning the stage over from the Choir to the Symphonic Band.  

When asked for her perspective, Amelia Campbell, soprano in the Concert Choir and Chamber singers, said, “The Holiday Gala has always been a huge part of the Gunnison and Western communities around the holidays. Seeing it return for the first time since the pandemic has been wonderful! It feels like hope.” 

Next semester’s Kincaid Concert Hall schedule begins on February 13 at 3 p.m., with a recital by faculty pianist, Dr. Martha Violett. Ten days later, Kincaid will host the All-Colorado Honor Band Concert, on February 24th, at 7:30pm.