Over a hundred sets of eyes rest on Maestro Richard Auldon Clark as he stops rehearsing Hail to Christmas by Victor Herbert to straighten out an error. There’s something missing—the fire and excitement needed to make the piece really pop. “Waltz with me, orchestra! This is a dance!” He says.
Rejoice! has been an essential part of Butler University’s holiday season for years. Each December, Dr. Eric Stark and Dr. John Perkins tag-team this massive undertaking with Professor Clark or Professor Colburn, uniting choir with the symphony orchestra or wind ensemble, depending on the year. The team is always looking for new methods to make the performance exciting for both the players and the audience.
“For me these pop songs have to have a surge of energy,” Professor Clark says. “Everybody’s heard all of these songs before; they can’t be played the same way they always are. This stuff is exciting and passionate! It should explode! We’ll have our pretty and slow moments, but Sleigh Ride isn’t Gustav Mahler.” He means that quite literally—the orchestra really rocks out to Sleigh Ride, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and many other classic favorites.
The ensembles begin rehearsing Christmas music individually as early as mid-October, practicing the pieces to perfection, and then combine rehearsals in November. More than 160 people are all working toward a single goal: making Rejoice! one of the largest group projects that happens on Butler’s campus. Senior violist Meagan Barnett has performed the concert with the orchestra twice and the choir once. “My favorite part about Rejoice! is the amount of students that are on stage making music together. I love collaborating with the different departments in the School of Music and Rejoice! is the perfect opportunity for that!”
Barnett says, “I really enjoy collaborating between the orchestra and the two choirs. As a string player, performing with choirs is a very different experience. We have to be sensitive to them and make sure all of the words can be heard. The Butler Symphony Orchestra is quite large this year so we have had a lot of fun working with the balance and sensitivity of our sound.” There is even more than just the orchestra and two choirs at work: the premiere of a graduate composition student is part of the repertoire, esteemed Butler faculty will give readings between some pieces, and a guest choir from Shortridge High School, the IPS magnet performing arts high school, will perform as well.
“Rejoice! is a unique part of Butler’s holiday season because it is probably one of the biggest musical performances the School of Music puts on during the year. It’s a great way to end the fall semester and also a great way for the audience to get into the holiday spirit,” Barnett says. Join Butler’s School of Music and many friends this weekend at Clowes Memorial Hall at 7:30 PM both Friday and Saturday night for a spectacular musical celebration that you won’t want to miss.
Interested in attending this year’s Rejoice!? You can buy tickets online or at the Clowes Hall Box Office.