A Backstage Look at Listen

Tim Jordan '76Leave a Comment

Christmas night Black Music Ensemble

Twas the night before Christmas . . . and all through the land, Bereans eagerly awaited the national broadcast of the CBS Television presentation of Listen, a Musical Celebration of Christmas at Berea College.

The concert was the culmination of months of effort that started with conversations between the College’s marketing and communications department and producers for the Religion and Culture Series at CBS. While putting together an hour-long Christmas special would require an enormous amount of work, President Lyle D. Roelofs and the College’s Administrative Committee realized that the opportunity to share Berea’s message with the nation was simply too good to pass up.

Soon, individuals from across campus were meeting, sharing ideas, and getting to work to produce an event  showcasing the talents of our students.  The music faculty, staff from the Campus Christian Center, from Facilities Management, from Public Safety, and many others worked throughout the fall semester to ensure the event would be a success.

Reverend Loretta Reynolds of the Willis D. Weatherford Campus Christian Center read from the Nativity story in the Gospel of Luke.

The broadcast featured performances by the Concert Choir, Black Music Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Women’s Chorus, Folk Roots Ensemble, Bluegrass Ensemble, as well as a reading from the Nativity story in the Gospel of Luke from the St. John’s Bible, a hand-written, illuminated version of the Bible recently acquired by the College.

As these images show, preparing for a recording project of this magnitude required many changes from previous years’ live performances. The most obvious of which was the move from Union Church to Phelps Stokes Chapel in order to accommodate extra cameras, lighting, audio equipment, and the personnel to operate them. Student workers helped transform Phelps Stokes Chapel with festive evergreen garlands, wreaths, Christmas trees, and lighting.

Recognizing the “once-in-a-lifetime” nature of this opportunity, students willingly took on the extra hours needed for rehearsals—one tech rehearsal lasted until 1:30 a.m.—while keeping up with their class and labor obligations. Dr. Kathy Bullock, chair of the Music Department, noted that more than 60 percent of the students who participated in the Christmas Concert are not music majors, but one would never know it based on their stellar performances.

Recording the concert required the highest level of technical production, including seven video cameras. The work was led by crews of lighting, audio, and video professionals, with support by student workers.

Muse Watson, a Berea College alumnus and popular star of films and television, served as the on-camera host and narrator for the broadcast. Those who saw the broadcast will agree that with his distinctive voice and gracious manner, Watson vividly conveyed Berea’s remarkable mission and introduced each musical ensemble to the millions of viewers across the U.S. and Canada.

For more information about the concert and to access a recording of the broadcast, visit: www.berea.edu/listen/

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