BELTON — In the unrelenting commercial mish-mash that pervades the Christmas season, it’s refreshing to encounter a celebration that harkens back to the reverent, reflective origins of yuletide traditions.
On Thursday evening, in a chapel on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, the school’s Concert Choir performed a compelling concert that combined musical moments of serenity and joy.
The occasion was the fourth annual “Festival of Lessons and Carols,” and while technically a worship service, the evening belonged to the student members in the chorus and the delectable sonorities coaxed from them by director Michelle Roueche.
Timothy Crawford served as officiant.
The Bible verses interspersed between musical selections were brief; accenting rather than disrupting the melodic arc of the performance.
“It’s a quieter setting,” Roueche said, describing the goal of the event, “and it’s a beautiful experience.”
Her faculty assistant, Matthew Crosby, accompanied the vocalists on piano and Roueche also played the organ in addition to conducting the ensemble.
This is a group with many capable soloists. Cristal Conner, from Arlington, shone on “The Rose.”
Kailyn Campbell, from Katy, was featured on “Rest, My Child,” which was under the direction of Belton’s Stephen Ash, a student conductor. This contemplative, evocative piece was remarkable for the precision of the singers’ diction as well as the group’s intonation. The Manning Chapel’s superior acoustics leave nowhere for out-of-tune voices to hide, and the choir nailed their respective pitches for the long sustained notes.
“I heard this show last year,” said Keely Anderson, from Harker Heights. “So I wanted to bring my daughter since she sings in her school choir. This (UMHB) choir is amazing.”
Anderson and her daughter especially enjoyed the sing-along numbers, and said that they’d “definitely be back next Christmas” to attend the performance.
Shawn Edwards, 20, from Temple, was surprised.
“They didn’t use any microphones,” he said. “But I could hear them clearly, even in the soft parts.”
UMHB freshman Qiujie Pan, 19, from China, said “What Child Is This?” was her favorite.
“It’s based on the English tune ‘Greensleeves’ and I learned that in English class in China,” she said.
UMHB students are required to attend one designated fine arts event per semester. To accommodate the large student attendance, plus members of the public, two performances were given.
The audience was quiet and attentive, as is the norm at this venue — the glowing, vibrant voices seemed to resonate and recall the deeper meaning of the holiday season.
And that’s exactly what Roueche had in mind.
“It’s just a beautiful way to relax and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.”