Christmas at Luther (CAL) has come and gone again. As always, it brought a flurry of activity during the near-constant rehearsals of CAL Week, kicked off with a marathon six-hour practice the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is a busy time of the year as exams approach, but everyone on campus bands together to buoy each other’s’ spirits. For my part, I have never performed in CAL, which is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the thought of the constant frantic action necessitated by study and practice and performance after performance (five total) is intimidating.
Then again, Christmas at Luther is an integral part of the tradition of the Luther College community. Alumni stream in from across the country and the globe to see a performance, and the musicians and vocalists form tight-knit bonds as their spirits are tugged between the sublime beauty of the stage and the inclemencies of end-of-the-year projects. It’s a growing experience for everyone, one that places them in direct contact with the thread of Luther College past and present.
Alas, I have never taken to the stage during a performance, but at least I have been able to watch. Last Sunday, my mother, an alumna, came to pay me a visit so that we could attend the matinee together.
The stage was gorgeous, dominated by a massive papier-mâché tree, symbol of the year’s theme: The Tree of Life My Soul Hath Seen. The orchestra took the stage while the brass made themselves comfortable high above, seated next to the organ. In marched the choristers, hundreds of members composing six choirs. With a brass fanfare and the deep bass of the organ, things got underway.
As always, the show was a spectacular affair. This year, in keeping with the theme, music and readings focused on peace and reconciliation, trees and conservation. The natural environment in which we live, so important to us here in the valley of the Upper Iowa River, was a major theme throughout. To end it all, there came a booming rendition of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God” in which the entire audience, hundreds upon hundreds of voices, joined, shaking the Center for Faith and Life to its foundation.
And with that, Christmas at Luther was finished for another year, a transient, wild ride, leaving so much beauty in its wake.