by Zachary Oren Smith
Ethereal echoes bounded down the halls of the Academic Complex as the Millsaps Singers began their Christmas Carol Concert. Students, faculty, and members of the Jackson community assembled in the Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5.
Tinsel and red ribbons stretched around the walls behind the orchestra as it began warming up. Horns, percussion, trombones, a tuba, timpani, trumpets and an organ lined the front of the stage. The lights dimmed and the crowd chuckled as the Millsaps Singers struggled to find their way on to the packed stage.
They played songs like William Bradley Roberts’ “South African Gloria” and Ola Gjeilo’s “Ubi Caritas.” Lyrics like “peace to all people” and “from a sincere heart let us love one another” set a tone of reverence and celebration appropriate for the holiday.
Throughout the show conductor Timothy Coker would turn to the audience saying, “It’s time to sing,” inviting the audience to carol with the orchestra and choir. The audience helped sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” “The First Nowell” and “Hark! The Harold Angels Sing.” Sophomore tenor Ryan Pachillo says, “They all came out and were so very thankful to fellowship with us. We were all one and connected. I even enjoyed having them come after the show and share about their families and their [Christmas] memories.”
For part two of the concert, the Millsaps Singers partnered with the Pearl High School Singers to sing “Hodie!” by Z. Randall Stroope. The choir pulsed with energetic crescendos and well voiced harmonies—well voiced, other than the percussion section that often overwhelmed the choir’s sound.
In part three, they sang “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” The piece bordered on minimalism, layering voice parts one at a time and then removing sections until only the original melody was left. The song began with a reverent melody, sung by the Millsaps Singers’ soprano section. They were soon joined by the alto section and then the men’s tenor and bass sections. In the end, the other sections were silent, and the sopranos were left singing their original melody.
The concert even featured “Kindle,” a newly composed song by Timothy Coker featuring the poetry of Mississippi native Doris Jones. The piece was different from the others, with lyrics unfamiliar to the carol setting. Junior Callie Rush says, “The lyrics are versatile—fitting for the Advent occasion.” The lyrics evoked the image of preparing a pyre of “thoughtless words,” “pettiness,” and “imperfections” and the catharsis of burning them so we could “turn and walk away to newness.”
The celebration and exuberance for the holiday season was a charming escape for the students as they began their final exams.