ISU choirs, orchestra wrap up semester with 50th-annual ISU Holiday Festival

Jessica Sheldahl

As the semester is winding down and the holidays are approaching, the four ISU choirs and the ISU Symphony Orchestra are preparing for the holidays in their own way.

The ensembles will wrap up the semester with the 50th-annual ISU Holiday Festival.

“It’s an opportunity to do something with a more central theme,” says Kathleen Rodde, lecturer of music and conductor of Lyrica and Cantamus.

The concert will include a wide variety of pieces from around the world, and each choir will sing two or three of them.

“They try to pick pieces from different genres, not just Christmas,” says Quyen Nguyen, junior in health and human performance and member of Cantamus. “This one seems like the most diverse concert.”

Rodde says the repertoire does not represent specific holidays so much as general themes of peace, hope and love through uplifting music.

James Rodde, professor of music, director of choral activities and conductor of Iowa Statesmen and Iowa State Singers, says he looks forward to this concert each year because it gets all of the choirs together.

ISU Holiday Festival is one of two occasions during the fall semester that the four choirs – Lyrica, Cantamus, Iowa Statesmen and Iowa State Singers – can be heard at the same concert.

The audience members will also get a chance to show off their voices at ISU Holiday Festival. The concert program will have lyrics printed in it for several holiday favorites, including “The First Noel,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “We Three Kings,” “What Child Is This” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

The audience is encouraged to sing along with the organ several times during the performance, while the choirs move on and off the stage. After the choirs finish, the symphony orchestra will perform.

The ISU Symphony Orchestra will play selections from “Nutcracker Suite” by Tchaikovsky to celebrate the season. The orchestra will also play five or six short pieces before the choirs join it to perform a 10-minute piece to conclude the concert.

“It’s not too often you get to see 400 people doing the same thing at once,” says James Hannon, assistant professor of music, director of orchestral activities and conductor of the ISU Symphony Orchestra. “[The choirs] get to work with the orchestra once a semester.”

The professors are not the only ones excited about the opportunity to perform with the orchestra. Nguyen says the choirs usually sing with just the piano or no accompaniment at all, so it is quite a different sound for them. She says in the past there have been interesting accompaniments, such as harp or percussion, giving the concert more variety.

“You have voices with a lot of colors and then the orchestra adds a lot of color,” James says.

What: ISU Holiday Festival

Where: Stephens Auditorium

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $10 adults, $5 students, seniors