Music News & Reviews

Berea College and UK musicians to welcome Christmas on WKYT

Kathy Bullock, director of Berea College’s Black Music Ensemble, directs the performers in singing “A Gospel Christmas Medley” during the college’s 2016 Christmas Concert.
Kathy Bullock, director of Berea College’s Black Music Ensemble, directs the performers in singing “A Gospel Christmas Medley” during the college’s 2016 Christmas Concert.

If you like waiting up for Santa, area college musicians can help you welcome Christmas.

The Berea College music department’s annual Christmas program, which Bluegrass Ensemble director Al White calls “the biggest gig of the year,” will be shown at 11:35 p.m. Christmas Eve on CBS stations across the country. It will be followed by the first of three Christmas Day showings of the Alltech Celebration of Song, which took place this past Sunday afternoon in the Atrium of The Square in Downtown Lexington.

The Celebration features students, faculty and friends of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre program performing holiday favorites. Featured soloists included Metropolitan Opera veterans Cynthia Lawrence, Gregory Turay and Everett McCorvey, director of the program. Alltech is one of UK Opera’s major supporters, providing thousands of dollars in scholarship money and other support, annually.

Prior to that will be the Berea College concert, shot live at Berea’s Phelps Stokes Chapel Dec. 2 and 3, featuring Berea’s Black Music Ensemble, Concert Choir, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Women’s Chorus and the Bluegrass Music Ensemble.

The Bluegrass Ensemble has already attracted a lot of attention with an online video that sounds like Christmas in Kentucky.

In the “Carol of the Bells,” the round starts with mandolin, quickly answered by fiddle, banjo and finally guitar, all propelled by deep, acoustic bass. The blazing two-and-a-half minute performance by the cross-generational group is captured in the diffused sunlight of late fall woods and the sanctuary of an old church.

The arrangement is by White, who was trying to get something together a few years ago for the Berea College Christmas concert.

“I always go all out arranging and rehearsing with my students for this,” White wrote, answering email questions about the video. “I first worked this song up with the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble for the 2008 Christmas Program. I brought the arrangement back for the 2015 Christmas Program because I felt like I had all the right personnel in the Bluegrass Ensemble to do this arrangement justice. Our friend Terry Vaught videoed us from his seat in the balcony at Union Church, put it up on Facebook and it fairly quickly received 15,000 viewings.”

One of the people watching was Richmond filmmaker Josiah Stendel, who offered to shoot the video for free. The ensemble recorded the song at Lexington’s Oakwood Recording Studios and then filmed with Stendel, founder of Lexington’s Menlo Lights media, in Lexington’s Jacobson Park and Berea College’s Danforth Chapel. In less than a week online, the video has exceeded 30,000 views.

Follow Rich Copley on Facebook and Twitter, @copiousnotes.

On TV

“Listen! A Celebration of Christmas at Berea College”

11:35 p.m. Dec. 24 WKYT-TV 27-1 (TWC Ch. 9)

“Alltech Celebration of Song”

12:35 a.m. and 8 a.m. Dec. 25 WKYT

7 a.m. (The CW) WKYT2-TV 27-2 (TWC Ch. 5)

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