Festival Singers perform dazzling Christmas concert

Andrew Shermoen

The Topeka Festival Singers, a group currently celebrating its 33rd year, performed a concert Monday, Dec. 19, at White Concert Hall. As the large audience sat down for the aptly-titled concert “Old Chestnuts, New Fire” they were surrounded by the members who promptly sang their first piece: Eric Whitacre’s “Lux Arumque.” The song echoed from every angle of the concert hall. After the performance the group took the stage to present its lineup to an enthusiastic audience.

Dr. Kellim is the Topeka Festival Singer’s conductor. The lauded director is also the head of choral studies at Washburn, but has been with the Festival Singers for 30 years. He chose the title of “Old Chestnuts, New Fire,” to reflect on the concert’s theme of old classics being given a modern twist. “It seems obvious to take a traditional carol and find a modern arrangement. Many pieces we’ve picked are new for our audience and for us.” According to Kellim the title best reflected on songs like “Good Christian Men” and “Silent Night” which the group performed.

A notable audience member attending the concert was Jeff Kready. A former member of the Festival Singers, Kready was returning to celebrate the holiday season with his family when he decided to attend the concert. Since leaving the group Kready has made himself a well-known name with several Broadway appearances in shows like “Les Miserables,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and “Billy Elliot the Musical.” Kready had many friendly words to say of his former group, “it was amazing concert because it had so many of my favorites,” Kready said. “I love the Eric Whitacre piece and Luboff piece. So many favorites were performed tonight and I absolutely loved it.” Kready also spoke highly of Kellim’s direction of the group saying that watching him conduct “is a treat” and “there’s no better show than that.”

David Lundry, a current member of the Festival Singers, who has been in the group for 30 years also enjoyed his time performing in the concert. “I have a great time with the Festival Singers. I loved travelling to Europe with the group and the Christmas concerts are always a joy to perform in.” Some of Lundry’s favorite pieces performed in the concert were the eight choral movements from Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” As well as the arrangement of “Silent Night” done by John Ferguson.

Vivaldi’s “Gloria” was an interesting choice according to Kellim who said “the entire piece is incredibly long but doing only the choral movements of the work adds a different pace and feel to the entire piece”

Jamie Tague, a regular attendant of Festival Singers shows, was a big fan of the performances. “It was a great blend of classical pieces and traditional Christmas music. It did a good job of bringing in the Christmas spirit and getting me excited for the holidays.”

The concert ended with uproarious applause and an encore. The Festival Singers next concert will be on March 6, 2017 at White Concert Hall. The concert is entitled “To The Opera!” which will focus on operatic styles of music and will feature faculty members from the Washburn Music Department as soloists.