Joy to the World! Christmas at Luther

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
December 19, 2009

St. Paul, Minn. — Take 600 musicians --- singers, bell-ringers, organ, brass, percussion, strings and winds --- mix them all up with a little candle-light, some holiday garlands and a carefully selected program of the most beautiful Christmas melodies -- and what have you got?

A joyful noise that captures the wonder, awe and excitement of the season.

It all happens in one of the nation's finest college concert halls and a spectacular setting for this annual event, the Center for Faith and Life on the campus of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Christmas at Luther Artistic Director Craig Arnold chose a theme of Joy to the World. While we know those familiar words as one of the top five "all-time favorite" Christmas Carols, it's the sentiment of sheer exultation that is a fitting descriptor for the Christmas at Luther concert.

A couple of highlights include new settings of very old texts - Luther conductor Sandra Peter's "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" as well as Rene Clausen's "There is No Rose."

Also on the program is Randall Thompson's one-word Shepherd Lullaby "Nowel" as sung by the freshmen Norsemen chorus.

Irish flute and solo baritone give us an astonishingly touching setting of the Irish tune "Wexford Carol." We'll also hear a sweet organ "Noel" from a 17th century organist so popular the clergy were put off by the rowdy crowds he attracted to Mass.

For the finale, it's one John Rutter's best -- a rousing "Gloria."

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