Set against a backdrop of snowy white lace (an alternative to the traditional projector), twinkling lights and wreaths of holly, Biola University’s annual Christmas concert showcased the talented school ensembles including the chorale, studio orchestra and the six-man acapella group The King’s Men. Staying true to the university’s Christian roots, the concert did a fantastic job of leading the audience through the festivities of American Christmas traditions to a tribute to the soldiers overseas, (“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and finally landing on the true reason for the season: Christ.
The show took off with a lighthearted and fun opening of “Sleigh Bells,” emphasizing the strong unity between the string section and the percussions although the brass section could have been tighter in their synchronization. The overall dynamics of the piece was excellent, not too loud and not too soft, creating an atmosphere of lively yet muted Christmas cheer. The orchestra continued to give a strong performance throughout the show, particularly during a medley of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and a jazz rendition of “Jingle Bells.” If you were to close your eyes you might feel as if you were in the midst of a Disneyland Christmas parade.
Easily the strongest performers in the group, The King’s Men excelled in their harmonies, mesmerizing the audience with soulful stylings of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Road to Zion.” Senior Arnold Geis stood out in particular with his perfect pitch and stellar tenor range. Soloist Matthew Kellaway was equally impressive as he sang “The Promise.” His vibrato and pitch control created a compelling picture of Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah’s arrival, from his deep bass to a surprisingly beautiful falsetto.
The female soloists didn’t fare so well. Kristin Tucker—another senior singer—put far too many theatrics into her performance of “Grown-Up Christmas List,” creating the wrong tone altogether as she gave more Broadway than subdued sentiment. Her over-the-top vocals contrasted poorly with the lyrics, especially given the war and recent natural disasters of the past year. Lauren Bartels voice was not strong enough to carry her through “O Holy Night.” Her tone was pitchy, lacking the fullness needed to properly accentuate the dynamics the song requires.
The chorale stayed in perfect pitch throughout every song, sounding united as every singing group should be. Unfortunately, their volume was poorly mismatched with the studio orchestra, the brass and strings often overpowering the vocals. Still, the audience seemed to enjoy the program, from the joyful tones of the Christmas carols to the somber harkening of Christ’s birth and the triumphant ending of “Glory, Glory!” ending in satisfied applause and a spurt or two of fake snow.
"Heart Of Manger" taken from Biola University site