Ouachita Baptist University’s School of Fine Arts will present its 22nd annual production of A Festival of Christmas on Nov. 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at www.obu.edu/boxoffice. Current Ouachita students receive one free ticket with their IDs.
“A Festival of Christmas is one of our biggest productions and reaches one of the largest audiences for the School of Fine Arts,” said Dr. Gary Gerber, musical director of A Festival of Christmas. Gerber also serves as chair of the Division of Music, director of choral activities and professor of music.
A Festival of Christmas began in 1992 following the opening of Jones Performing Arts Center. “The president at the time, Dr. Ben Elrod, wanted to have a big showcase event,” said Gerber. “Dr. Charles Wright, who was dean of OBU’s School of Fine Arts at the time, came up with an idea of doing a big Christmas production.” With that, A Festival of Christmas was born and has been an annual event ever since.
“It is a festive celebration of the birth of Christ and is a gift from OBU to the community of Arkadelphia and surrounding cities, as well,” said Dr. Becky Morrison, director of Women’s Chorus and assistant professor of music.
“A Festival of Christmas is not just a regular concert with the normal Ouachita audience,” Gerber added. A large percentage of the audience comes from various church groups that attend A Festival of Christmas on a regular basis, “as a way of starting off their holiday season.”
While the production typically takes place at the beginning of December, this year’s concert will occur earlier due to an unusually late Thanksgiving. With only one week of classes left in the semester following Thanksgiving break, the School of Fine Arts wanted to reserve that time for students to focus on their finals.
Highlighting the theme, “Celebrate the Season,” A Festival of Christmas will still present audience members with beloved Christmas tunes as in years past. According to Gerber, the show will begin by celebrating “the secular aspects of Christmas,” with Santa Clause, reindeer, sleighs and other typical winter scenes. Songs such as “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Blue Christmas” and “The Christmas Waltz” will be presented during this portion of the production.
The second half of the show will “move into more of the traditional, sacred songs,” Gerber said. “Mary Did You Know?”, “Let Us Adore Him” and “O, Holy Night” are a few of the songs that will be included in the sacred half of A Festival of Christmas.
Five performing groups will make up this year’s production: Ouachita Singers and Concert Choir, both directed by Gerber; Ouachita Sounds, directed by Mary Worthen, assistant professor emerita of music; Women’s Chorus, directed by Morrison; and the Ouachita Pit Band, which will feature the division’s instrumental students.
Also included will be the Festival of Christmas Dancers, members of the concert choir who will provide visual aesthetics by dancing and acting. Dr. Scott Holsclaw, dean of OBU’s School of Fine Arts, will serve as stage director and Stacy Hawking, a sophomore musical theatre major from Sherwood, Ark., will serve as choreographer.
“All the groups draw together to pull off the production and be a part of A Festival of Christmas,” said Gerber.
Tickets are $10 each and may be purchased at the Jones Performing Arts Center Box Office weekdays from 1-5 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.obu.edu/boxoffice. Students with a valid OBU ID may receive one free ticket. For more information, call the box office at (870) 245-5555 during business hours.
By Taylor Tomlinson