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Christmas Vespers, a tradition that continues to surprise
Lehigh University Choral Arts, directed by Steven Sametz, will perform its annual Christmas Vespers concerts this Sunday, Dec. 9, in Packer Memorial Church.

How do most people get into the spirit of Christmas? By listening to festive holiday music, joining with family, friends and neighbors, and remembering the true meaning of the season.

With Christmas carols and readings, candlelight and joy, Lehigh’s Christmas Vespers concert promises to offer a merry blend of these traditions. The concert will take place twice on Sunday, Dec. 9, in Packer Memorial Church.

Christmas Vespers is a tradition at Lehigh, giving the community annual gift of outstanding holiday classics and rearrangements of old favorites, as well as readings, candlelight and joy.

The Christmas Vespers performances on Sunday start at 4 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. Both are free and open to the community.

This year’s Christmas Vespers has a Marian theme, with music venerating the Virgin Mary. The concert includes several new pieces, says Steven Sametz, the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music and the artistic director of Lehigh University Choral Arts, who will conduct the Vespers singers.

“We rarely have a concert at Lehigh without premiers of new works, and Vespers is no exception,” he says.

“Andrey Stolyarov ’13, a Presidential scholar majoring in music composition, has written a moving and atmospheric setting of the traditional Christmas text, ‘O Magnum Mysterium,’ a description of the wonder that the oxen and ass should be the first to witness Christ’s birth in the manger.”

The old made new again

In addition, Sun Min Lee, the Robert Cutler Professor of Practice, has created a new setting of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” scored for women’s voices and harp. Lee is also the associate director of Lehigh University Choral Arts.

Sametz himself has written a piece for this year’s Vespers as well—a new setting of a traditional British carol, “Here We Come A-wassailing,” which he calls “a virtuoso romp for choir.”

Christmas Vespers vocalists are composed of the Lehigh University Choir and the Lehigh University Choral Union. The Choir, which includes students in various majors and vocal backgrounds, has toured throughout the world, performing in Russia, Germany, France, East Asia, the Czech Republic and other countries. Vocalists must audition for a spot in the Lehigh Choir.

Founded by Sametz, the Choral Union joins singers from the Lehigh Valley with Lehigh faculty, staff and students. It is a community outreach program with no audition required. The group has toured in China and Portugal with Choral Arts and has performed such pieces as Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Verdi’s Requiem.

In addition to giving the gift of their voices, Sametz says Lehigh students will create a welcoming ambiance in Packer Memorial Church for the concert by decorating the chapel with festive holiday trim.

The Christmas Vespers concerts are free with no tickets required. Seats fill quickly and early arrival is recommended.