Sunday, December 02, 2007
St. Olaf's College Christmas Festival Simulcast
Today (Sunday Dec. 2) I attended the St. Olaf College Christmas festival Simulcast at a Regal Cinemas auditorium in Arlington VA at 4 PM ($20). The festival was preceded by a short film documenting the history of the festival (back to 1912), with many black-and-white images of the college and the town of Northfield at different points during the last century. The live Simulcast (by satellite) was broadcast to 197 theaters around the country today. The sound did seem a bit constricted (with a trace of intermodulation distortion), especially in the a cappella numbers.
I attended the event on a Saturday night in 1999 when I was living in Minneapolis. Northfield is about 40 miles SE of Minneapolis, and you have to be drawn from a lottery to get a ticket. The event takes place in what seems like a large gym converted to an auditorium with about 12000 seats. The processional, that year a Lutheran hymn, was a tremendously moving experience. That year I remember some Vaughn Williams was played.
Today the concert started with an orchestral prelude “Messiah: Prince of Peace” from Trinity Canticles by Daniel Kallman. The piece is modern and somewhat impressionistic, mostly in slow tempos. Next the Prologue from Edward Elgar’s The Apostles were performed.
Other works from the standard classical choral repertoire included “For Unto Us a Child is Born from Handel ‘s Messiah; “How Lovely are the Messengers” from the oratorio St. Paul by Mendelssohn; an excerpt from In Terra Pax by Gerald Finzi; “And God Siad: One Day Shall Dawn from King David by Arthur Honegger; Nune Dimittis by Rene Clausen. The concert ended quietly with “Beautiful savior” adapted from a Silesian folk tune by F. Melius Christiansen.
The conductors were Anton Armstrong, Steven Amundson, Christopher Aspaas, and Sigrid Johnson. There was an entre’acte of Christmas carols including a rousing interpretation of “Joy to the World” as arranged by Steven Amundson. A major theme of this year's concert is "liberal arts in a time or war."
I like the idea that musical organizations (including the Met) have some of their broadcasts filmed in HD and then distributed to theaters for limited showings by a regular film distributor (say, Sony Pictures Classics).
A typical film from St. Olaf's film school is "Change Inside" (River's Edge Films, dir. Nathan Haustein) (the trick of putting a penny on a railroad track, and then finding real help inside a church service). Link is here. From the 2007 Insomnia Film Festival. The little film reminds me of the work of Jason Epperson and Will Bigham ("Lucky Penny") in Dreamworks 's "On the Lot" short film contest on Fox last summer.
Update: Feb. 6. 2008
The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC last Sunday (Feb 3) performed the anthem "The Glimpse of Glory" by David Ashley White. I believe this was performed by St. Olaf's at the 1999 concert that I went to. As a hymn, it seems to be popular in Lutheran churches and it was often sung at the Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis as a hymn. But it does not seem to appear in the Baptist hymnal. It has rich harmonies and modulations of post-romantic music. It is probably somewhat difficult for congregations to sing.
Picture: White House on World AIDS day (Dec. 1).
Second picture: Wikipedia attribution link for picture of St. Olaf's campus: