Faithful gather for tradition of Vespers

Christmas Vespers was presented this past Saturday and Sunday at Dimnent Chapel. The program was presented four times over the two days, and it was a unique environment of great music and performers. This program of Christmas carols and anthems was presented by the college’s Department of Music and featured many performers in historic Dimnent Memorial Chapel. The services featured a variety of Hope College instrumental and vocal groups as well as the college’s historic Skinner organ. Christmas Vespers was first held on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941. The timing, Pearl Harbor Day, was coincidental, with the program having been planned earlier in the semester. But even on that day, it was a great program, a precursor to the preceding programs. Even though the program is no longer showcased on Dec. 7, Hope will continue to honor the signfiicance of the first performance.

Vespers has always been run with a level of organzation and efficiency that not only showcases individual performances, but the tireless work of the group in preparing for the program. The first service included performances by multiple ensembles, an organ soloist and an organ and piano duet ending with the Chapel Choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” Vespers is also a time of celebration, not just of Christmas, but of the joy and happiness it brings to the community. The performances that have followed over the last 77 years have mirrored a similar format, with ensembles and the Chapel Choir topping off the performance with classic pieces. The 77th performance did not disappoint. Even with events that have happened in the past, this program was a great opportunity for students and members of the community to come out and get into the Christmas spirit.

Hope is heading into its final week before exams, so having this program available at this point was great for students and staff to enjoy some peaceful music before the storm of demands and due dates arrives. Vespers will continue to be an annual tradition, and having the community represent and support the musicians and performers is essential to Vespers’ success. The 2018 Vespers might be over, but 2019 Vespers is right around the corner. And as Vespers inches towards its 80th annual performance, this will be a historic achievement. Vespers is one of the longest running performance traditions at Hope and it is important for the music department to continue showing their talent on the stage.

Even as the department goes through drastic changes, Vespers will hopefully continue to be a great venue and opportunity for Christmas to come to Hope. It also enables attendees to see performers/musicians work on their craft and showcase their talent, an infinite love for the sound of music. Pictures from the 2018 Vespers will be available soon. Look for more information on 2019 Vespers, which will take place early December next year.

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