Topeka Festival Singers fill White Concert Hall with holiday cheer

Sing out: The Topeka Festival Singers perform "O magnum mysterium." The ensemble presented their annual holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday Dec. 17, 2018 in White Concert Hall.

The Topeka Festival Singers brought holiday cheer to the community as they performed their annual holiday concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17 in White Concert Hall.

Under the direction of Professor Kevin Kellim, the program included a wide variety of traditional and new arrangements to appeal to audience members of all ages.

The concert kicked off with the German sacred piece “Heilig,” by Felix Mendelssohn. This a cappella piece written for eight parts highlighted the performer’s tight sound and sensitivity given to each note.

The Topeka Festival Singers then switched gears to perform the upbeat tune “Here We Come A-Caroling,” arranged by Brant Adams.

The angelic “O magnum mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen’s arrangement transported listeners to a different world as they fell into the tightknit chords, interwoven melodic lines and broad dynamics throughout the piece.

Members of Topeka Festival Singers and Washburn alum Joshua Yoho were particularly fond of “O magnum mysterium.”

“The music was beautifully written and composed. The harmonies are also so rich, close and tight,” said Yoho, a music teacher at State Street Elementary School.

Yoho also enjoys this piece because of the sacred text.

“I really love the translation of the text. It really is meaningful to me, especially this time of year,” Yoho said. 

Topeka Festival Singers season ticket holder Judy Steves especially enjoyed listening to the piece because of its thick harmonies.

“They [Topeka Festival Singers] really do a nice job with the close harmonies,” Steves said. 

The Topeka Festival Singers’ own Charlie Wulke composed an arrangement of “Ave Maria.” Wulke conducted the choir as they performed his work. His a cappella arrangement was beautifully written and produced soft, nurturing emotions felt by audience members.

 “Go, Tell It on the Mountain” arranged by Stacey Gibbs was performed before closing the first half of the concert. This traditional tune was revamped into a fun gospel piece that had audience members dancing along in their seats.

The second half of the concert opened with a double feature of pieces arranged by Mark Hayes.

“We Need a Little Christmas” picked up the pace and heightened the energy in the hall and led into the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The Mark Hayes arrangements were beautifully crafted and appealed to many audience members.

Kellim led the audience in a sing along of “Silent Night,” arranged by Shawn Kirchner. Concert goers filled the hall with their voices as the Topeka Festival Singers sang harmonies and soaring descant parts.

The Topeka Festival Singers sang two movements from George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” They first performed “Worthy Is the Lamb,” which led into the well-known “Hallelujah” chorus.

When the first notes of “Hallelujah” were played on the organ, audience members jumped to their feet altogether as if they had rehearsed it beforehand. Standing up for this piece has been practiced by audience members for hundreds of years and concert goers on this night helped uphold the tradition. Once the fanfare chorus ended, “Bravo” was shouted out with glee before the rest of the audience started to applaud.

Finally, to finish the concert the Topeka Festival Singers kept their holiday concert tradition going strong by singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” arranged by Arthur Warrell. This well-known carol is a favorite of both performers and audience members because of its large presence in the concert hall.

Yoho said singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” is one of his favorite things about this concert because the audience expects it and is excited to hear it year after year.