Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Christmas at Luther 2010

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
December 13, 2010

Decorah, Iowa — Imagine 600 musicians --- singers, bell-ringers, organ, brass, percussion, strings and winds --- dressed in elegant robes, and lit by candle-light singing some of the most ravishing music for the season.

That would describe a nearly three-decade old tradition of Luther at Christmas, a concert festival that makes a joyful noise to the wonder, the awe and the sheer thrill of the season.

Traditional holiday carols mixed with sacred Christmas choral anthems fill a gorgeously decorated college concert hall, the Luther Center for Faith and Life in Decorah, Iowa.

And if you weren't able to join the some 8,000 people who attended in person, you can still take part as we bring the music right to you when we broadcast "Christmas at Luther 2010" on Thursday, December 16th at 8:00 on Classical MPR.

Christmas at Luther Artistic Director Allen Hightower chose this year's theme "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" - Glory to God in the Highest.

Most of us have sung those words many times during the Christmas season, and the sentiment of sheer exultation is a fitting descriptor for this concert.

With a program as varied as John Rutter's "Angel Carol" and the Sanctus from a Mass by Francis Poulenc to a freedom song from South Africa put this small Christian liberal arts in league with some of the best music schools in the world.

The concert begins with a chance for the audience to join in singing one of the all-time favorites O Come All Ye faithful.

One tradition that audience members look forward to happens towards the end of the program when the lights go out and the choirs surround the audience. While singing "The First Nowell," one by one each chorister lights a candle held by the person next to him until the entire Center is aglow in candlelight - signifying the Messiah's eternal light coming into a dark world.

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