By Arcelia Salado Alvarado
The concert starts in 20 minutes and Kilworth is almost 3/4 full. There’s a spectacularly-decorated tree in the left corner and, in true holiday spirit, it is the slightest bit lopsided.
Winterfest is a winter choral concert featuring the Adelphians and Voci D’Amici choirs. This year it took place on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. Dr. Steven Zopfi, director of choral activities and professor in the School of Music, was the conductor and Reverend Dave Wright read pieces of poetry and prose after every couple of songs.
Winterfest has been a long-standing tradition at the University of Puget Sound and it is a community favorite. Most of the pews were packed with adults from the Tacoma area and the concert was completely sold out.
The songs presented were not only in the Western, Christian tradition; there was a lot of diversity within the music. Dr. Zopfi explained the idea behind having people hold their applause until the end of a section was in order to create a seamless show that transitioned from one experience to another.
For three of the carols, the audience was invited to sing along with lyrics provided on the concert program. Choir members stood in the aisles and sang. Dr. Zopfi turned and faced towards the audience, conducting the carolers sitting in their pews.
In an interview, Reverend Wright said that he hoped than in the current political climate and natural disasters, audience members could find hope in these performances.
Silent Night, a song performed for the last couple of years, was a wonderful experience. The choir members’ faces were candlelit and their voices angelic. With the lights dimmed, the notes of a the string instruments hung in the air above the singers, hauntingly beautiful in the darkness.
The concert ended with a gospel-style choral piece written by composer Dr. Jeffery Ames called “Rejoice!” There is a constant tension between the ideas of cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation when it comes to music. Under what circumstances, if at all, the privileged majority should be allowed to play and interpret songs from the oppressed minority is a question performers constantly face.
Dr. Zopfi and the chorus discuss these issues at large and then learn about the history of gospel music. Dr. Zopfi said that African American gospel music had its origins in rain shouts and spirituals. In civil rights era, African American churches were places of sanctuary and resistance where gospel music played an important role in services, connecting not only to faith but to justice.
Dr. Zopfi also explained that Dr. Ames made arrangements so that “Rejoice!” could be accessible to college- and community-level choirs. In introducing the piece, Reverend Wright discussed the aforementioned roots of African American gospel music. Dr. Zopfi hoped that by including songs from many backgrounds the concert would immerse audience members in an appreciation of cultures and celebrations other than their own.
“I hope that they find something in the concert that they enjoy. I hope some of it challenges them to think in different ways or at least exposes them to things they may not have been exposed to before. And I hope it’s an enjoyable experience that gets people thinking,” Dr. Zopfi said.
Furthermore, the poetry readings by Rev. Wright created a great balance within the concert. Since a lot of the music was sung in another language, the poetry was a little more accessible to the mono-glottal, non-musically-trained audience members.
“Adinu,” a Sufi song created by Shireen Abu-Khader and Andre de Quadros was one of the most notable performances of the night. Dr. Zopfi mentioned that Abu-Khader and Quadro’s music was adapted so it could be performed by anyone. The traditional Sufi melody was sung in Arabic with soloists Emily Laliotis ‘18 and Patrick Zimmerman ‘19. The performance was transfixing and there is no doubt a vast number of the audience experienced something new and brilliant thanks to Winterfest.
A crowd favourite was definitely the silly song, of which there is always one at Winterfest. This one is called “The Twelve Days of Christmas Confusion,” arranged by Chris R. Hansen.
As promised, it featured many confused singers artfully stumbling through the traditional Christmas song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” and it included snippets of other holiday songs as well as surprise ending using Toto’s “Africa.” Despite the request that applause be held until each section was over, the humorous ballad had the audience clapping between laughter.
“It made me feel upbeat and lively even though I’m tired from studying from finals all day,” junior Meghan Rogers said about the concert.
Winterfest was a welcome taste of the upcoming holiday season for students and community members alike.