Christmas Festival takes stage at Wheaton College

  • Wheaton College will celebrate its annual Christmas Festival with performances Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8, in Edman Chapel.

    Wheaton College will celebrate its annual Christmas Festival with performances Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7-8, in Edman Chapel. Courtesy of Wheaton College

By Ann Piccininni
Daily Herald correspondent
Posted12/5/2018 11:15 AM

Wheaton College Professor Mary Hopper isn't exactly sure when the school's Christmas Festival began, but she does know this: it has been a yuletide tradition for decades.

Hopper, the festival's artistic director and a 1973 Wheaton graduate, is now in her 39th year of teaching at the college and the festival, she says, "started long before that."


In fact, she remembers attending the concert when she was a student in 1969.

Now the past president of the American Choral Directors Association and currently the conductor of the Wheaton College Men's Glee Club and the Women's Chorale, Hopper again will lead the three performances of the 2018 Christmas Festival that will be presented Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, in Edman Chapel on the Wheaton campus.

This year's celebration, titled "Blessed Son of God," will feature four sections, beginning with the advent of Christ and moving into musical interpretations of Christ's birth, the angels' announcement of the event and the adoration of Jesus.

"I try to put together a program that has some flow or message to it," Hopper says.

The concert will showcase the Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra and its performance will include "Glory Overture" by Michael W. Smith and David Hamilton.

The Percussion Ensemble will perform "The King of Love and Light" by Kathleen Kastner. The concert also will feature an arrangement of "O Come, O Come Immanuel" by John Trotter and a solo vocal performance of "Rise Up Shepherds and Follow" by Tanya Egler of the Wheaton College Gospel Choir.

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The concerts will feature faculty performances, including a piece sung by voice faculty member Sarah Holman accompanied by the women's chorale and orchestra and a piece by music professor and violinist Lee Joiner and the men's choir.

A dance troupe from the college, Zoe's Feet, also will take the stage.

The Friday evening performance will be followed by a tree-lighting ceremony.

The concerts on Friday and Saturday evening will be livestreamed, beginning at 7:30 p.m., on the college's website at

Last year's concert, titled "Messiah, Prince of Peace," will be shown on Channel 11 WTTW-TV at 9 p.m. Dec. 20 and 10 p.m. Dec. 24. The 2016 concert, "Love Divine," will be televised on WTTW Prime at 4 p.m. Dec. 24.

When the 2018 Christmas Festival concert closes with "Silent Night," choir members will come out and surround the audience while they sing, encouraging everyone to join them, Hopper says.

"This year we have five songs that the audience sings along with," she says. "People love to sing these songs. They're just beautiful."

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