Holiday Vespers celebrates 80th year

KU choirs, orchestras to lead community in traditional carols

If Holiday Vespers were a man, he might be wise, white-haired and bearded by now -- a little bit like Santa Claus.

At 80 years old, the holiday tradition still seems to inspire about as much enthusiasm as the Jolly Old Elf. Sold-out crowds throng the Lied Center to hear Kansas University student instrumentalists and vocalists perform offbeat selections to celebrate the holiday season. This year, that means tunes such as "Künstlerleben (Artist's Life) Waltzes, op. 316" by Johann Strauss Jr., "Himmelriket liknas vid tio jungfrur," a traditional Swedish carol and Elizabeth Poston's "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree."

Sprinkled among the more unfamiliar music will be carols the audience knows by heart. In fact, it's become a Vespers tradition for the audience to join in on traditional favorites such as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful."


Thad Allender/Journal-World File Photo

John Paul Johnson, director of the Kansas University Symphonic Choir, leads the audience in singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful" during the 79th Holiday Vespers. This year's Vespers performances will be at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive.

This year, weather permitting, the audience will be invited to join the performers for more carol singing outside the Lied Center immediately following the concert.

"It's one of the best-known and most revered holiday celebrations at a college or a university in the country, and so in the planning of it and in the preparation of it and in the performing of it, there's so many of the singers whose parents and grandparents and relatives and friends have all been a part of it," said John Paul Johnson, KU's director of choral activities, and a key organizer of the concert. "It just really takes on a family feel before it's all said and done."

The concert, which will be performed both at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, will feature the KU Symphony Orchestra, KU Symphonic Choir, First United Methodist Church Celebration Ringers, KU Chamber Choir, the student group Genuine Imitation and other student vocalists.

Past Event

Holiday Vespers

  • Sunday, December 5, 2004, 2:30 p.m.
  • Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive, KU campus, Lawrence
  • All ages


"It's different this year in that from the moment a person walks out of their car until they leave, it's constant music," Johnson said.

Patrons will be greeted by a brass ensemble playing in the Lied Center balcony, choirs singing in the lobby and music playing in the background as they find their seats. Choirs will be in each of the balconies and the aisles for the first five vocal numbers on the program.

"Everybody there's excited about Christmas and excited about entertaining," Johnson said. "And provided that we don't get overheated and faint, it turns out to be a great occasion."


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