A red curtain with white lights in the shape of snowflakes set the tone for Glee’s annual Holiday Concert. Upon walking into the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, I was greeted with ushers in festive sweaters, audience members in their nicest Christmas clothing and a program that laid out exactly what I was in store for. This year’s “A Glee-Filled Christmas,” directed by Carole Ann Maxwell, PhD, and accompanied by Beth Palmer, provided the audience with a series of classic holiday songs and unmatched talent from a variety of vocalists.
With Fairfield’s Media Center present and recording from a variety of different angles in preparation for the Fairfield Special on CBS, the Glee Club knew they had no room for error — and they really lived up to that expectation. Following the opening of the concert with Fairfield’s Alma Mater was the performance of “Selections from ‘Misa Carolae.’” The performance featured three different soloists (Eleanor Sgaramella ‘20, Katie Mullen ‘20 and Grace Dembia ‘20) who all carried themselves with grace and added a unique element to the song. As explained in the concert’s program, James Whitebourn, the composer of the song, is a Grammy-nominated composer, and where “Carolae” is a fusion of two American and English Christmas traditions that is meant to be sung as if from the perspective of the shepherds during the birth of Christ.
A notable moment during the concert was when soloist Jessica Jalbert ‘18 took center stage for her rendition of “Noel.” As a Mezzo Soprano vocalist, Jalbert was able to beautifully achieve a wide vocal range throughout the song. Her body movements during the performance demonstrate how invested she was in her solo, and whenever she sung out the long lasting note of “noel,” her arms would go out to her sides, displaying that she truly gave the performance everything she had.
Following Jalbert’s solo were The Chamber Singers, made up of 15 female vocalists. The Chamber singers started off with classical songs, such as, “Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day,” and Christmas favorite, “Ave Maria.” “Ave Maria” was skillfully sung in Latin. The Chamber Singers ended their spotlight with the upbeat holiday classic “Sleigh Ride,” where Elise Sullivan ‘19 entertainingly kept rhythm with bells. During this last song, the Chamber Singers fashioned Santa hats to add a light-hearted and less formal aspect to the performance.
The last song before intermission was a special ballad, “We Will Sing of a Dream,” written specifically for the Glee Club, which was commissioned in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Glee Club. Written by Kevin A. Memley, this song was one of my favorite moments of the night. The singers listened to one another to combine their vocal abilities in a way that had me speechless. The group sang different sections, on different times, with different rhythms, and yet when they all came together for other sections of the song, it sounded extremely powerful. Memley incorporated Fairfield’s Jesuit value of cura personalis by having the vocalists sing “cura personalis” throughout the song in different harmonies, that when combined, created an unbelievable melody.
Sweet Harmony and the Bensonians also took the spotlight for two songs each during the Christmas concert. Sweet Harmony, Fairfield’s all female a cappella group, is directed by Jalbert, and the Bensonians, Fairfield’s all male a cappella group, is directed by Marcus DeSouto ‘18. Both directors showed their talents, as the different groups were able to receive a rowdy round of applause from the audience. One of the most entertaining moments of the evening was the Bensonians’ rendition of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” as it was far from traditional and added in lines from different holiday favorites.
The highlight of the evening was a beautiful solo sung by soprano Sophia Bonini ‘21. As only a first-year student, performing as a soloist in front of an audience may seem daunting, but not for Bonini. This powerhouse vocalist graced the spotlight with her rendition of, “Cantique de Noel,” — more commonly known as, “Oh Holy Night.” Bonini sang the first few verses of the song in Latin, an impressive feat for a millennial singer, as Latin is starting to become less and less well-known. Her voice reached the high notes of the ballad perfectly. Bonini showed no signs of shaking in her voice, and delivered each line with confidence. Bonini did eventually begin singing the song in English, and somehow she was able to maintain the same eloquence as she did in the prior verses while singing in Latin later on. Bonini is a force to be reckoned with, and I anticipate seeing her featured at many more Glee concerts to come.
The Glee Club ended the festive evening with a group sing-along, where they encouraged audience members to join in with the song, “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I sang my heart out (I apologize to the people sitting next to me), and thoroughly enjoyed the last few minutes of the concert.
“A Glee-Filled Christmas” had songs for the whole family to enjoy, and definitely got Stags in the Christmas spirit. Be sure to keep an eye out for future Glee concerts such as “Global Grooves,” at the Quick Center on April 7 and their annual Pops concert, “Glee Hits the Big Screen,” on May 2.