Most folks will tell you that Christmas is the most eagerly anticipated holiday of the year. People begin to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the season long before the brisk, snowy weather arrives. For many, it’s the arrival of carols that truly jumpstarts this festive season. On Thursday, December 6, Saint Martin’s University in Lacey will host their annual free Christmas under the Canopy Concert. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. under a tent on the lawn of the school’s Trautman Student Union Building (TUB).

The concert “is one of my favorite nights of the year and I’m delighted that community members will hear about it,” says Director of Campus Ministry Angela Carlin. “The Advent Vespers Service is at 6:30 in the TUB, then we share a candlelit procession out to the canopy. Our University Chaplain, Fr. Peter Tynan, blesses the Christmas tree and the concert begins at 7:00. This is our third Christmas under the Canopy concert and it has quickly become a beloved tradition.”

SMU Tree Blessing
There will be a holiday tree blessing, advent vespers service, and performance by the school’s popular chorale. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

Fine Arts Chair and Associate Professor of Music Darrell Born is proud of the school’s music program. “This year the Saint Martin’s University Chorale has 40 members,” explains Born. “In addition to supporting the Benedictine traditions associated with our liberal arts university, they perform four concerts a year and perform mixed genres ranging from multi-cultural and pop repertoire to musical theater and classical traditions.”

“This is a collaborative program between the Performing and Fine Arts Department, Campus Life, and Campus Ministry,” says Carlin, “in an effort to hold the season of Advent sacred (expectant waiting for Christmas) while also allowing our community a shared Christmas celebration, since students leave campus to celebrate Christmas with their families. A little burst of prayer and celebration is also a welcome respite as students enter finals week.”

Held outside no matter the weather, the concert feels even more Christmassy. “The first year we tried this, the weather forecast predicted snow,” recalls Carlin, “and we began to second-guess the wisdom of holding a concert outside in December. But, the snowfall was the perfect atmosphere for the concert and made for an absolutely magical experience. Now we hope for snow!”

Saint Martin’s music program is an active, vibrant group. It “offers a B.A., a minor, and endorsements,” says Born. “We have excellent faculty who bring their life experience in performance and practice to our students. The program is active bringing guest artists and residents on campus to share with students and boasts an active performance program including chorale performances, the Music @ Noon recital series, student recitals, operas, musical theater productions, major works, jazz combo, and associations with several local instrumental performance groups.”

Their students travel and tour across the region. During the 2018-2019 school year, singers will travel to Portland for the Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto. In the spring, they’ll put on a show in collaboration with the Olympia Chamber Orchestra.

Saint Martin's University Holiday Concert
The free performance is guaranteed to kick off the holiday season of carols, community, and caring. Photo credit: Saint Martin’s University

As with all programs, clubs, and majors at Saint Martin’s, the ultimate goal is service to the community. “The Saint Martin’s University Chorale perform four public concerts a year,” says Born. “These concerts are all open to the public. The Hope Concert in spring features the talents of our Chorale in solos, duets, and ensemble. The premise of this concert aligns with the Benedictine values of the University which is service; we sing for a cause. We raise donations for local charities, Saint Martin’s student service trips, and reach out globally by raising money to send a water purification system that was built by our School of Engineering to our sister school in Tanzania.”

If you or someone you know is interested in studying music, the Saint Martin’s program has an array of opportunities. Find information on upcoming concerts through the school’s Facebook page or their online events calendar or daily schedule.

Saint Martin’s commitment to history, inclusion, and community means we can continue the tradition of music under the stars at the Christmas under the Canopy Concert. Join them and kick off your holiday season with a blessing and dose of holiday cheer.

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