Wednesday afternoon, the GBHS A Cappella Choir and Madrigals Pops Singers put the finishing touches on the 2012 Christmas Vespers concert. Dressed in robes, the group of 110 were picture perfect for videographers taping the program at Barton Community College.
“This is the 76th annual Vesper Concert,” said choir director Susan Stambaugh. “There aren’t many communities that have a concert tradition that has been around for 76 years. A lot of people say this is what gets them into the Christmas spirit.”
For 18 years, Stambaugh has been responsible for preparing the singers for their performance. In the beginning, only the Madrigals performed. Stambaugh opened it up to the A Capella choir in recent years.
Three buses transported the robed singers to the Barton Community College auditorium Wednesday afternoon. A production crew from NBC affiliate KSN television met them there to film the Vespers service the students will perform this weekend.
“In a changing society, with continuously changing tastes, this concert has stood the test of time,” Stambaugh said. “Through all the wars and upheavals, it unites the generations.”
For several of the students, they are the second and even the third generation to participate. Past students return to watch and help set up, and families come together to share time together.
The students’ commitment to the program has been impressive. She remembers when a blizzard nearly caused the 69th annual Vespers to be canceled. “We were just going to cancel it, but the students insisted they have it,” she said. “The only time that was available on short notice was Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m., but the show went on.” Other close calls over the years were met with equal reactions.
Nearly 100 young, melodious A Cappella voices produced joyful medleys of Christmas carol classics to Stambaugh’s direction. Nancy Baxter accompanied both groups on piano. During breaks between numbers, while Stambaugh reviewed video with the production crew, the students visited. When she was satisfied, the choir was dismissed to the bus, and it was time for the Madrigals to practice their performance of a variety of 20th Century Christmas favorites.
Dressed in floor length red gowns with rhinestone belts and necklaces, the young ladies’ appearance was reminiscent of high-end production show choirs of the past. The young men, dressed in vests and jackets looked equally professional. Stambaugh, herself, lent a touch of class to the stage, dressed in a floor-length black gown. Costume is a very important aspect of show choir, lending an aesthetic touch to the performance.
“Ladies, make sure necklaces are flat and centered,” Stambaugh instructed, directing students where to stand on the bleachers to ensure each had a perfect window before filming started.
Within two hours, the rehearsal and filming was complete, and all students returned to the school. KSN will show the filmed concert on Dec. 25 at 12:30 p.m. on channel 3. But for those who relish a live performance, the official concert will be held at the GBHS auditorium at 2:00 p.m., Sunday afternoon, December 16. The Youth Choir concert will follow at 3:30 p.m. The public is invited.