National Lutheran News

2010 Concordia College Christmas Concert honors former president, celebrates Clausen’s 25th year as director

This year’s annual Concordia College Christmas concert will be both a time of celebration and remembrance. As always, it will celebrate the Christmas season, but this year it will also honor the memory of the college’s beloved president Dr. Pam Jolicoeur, who died from a stroke in June.

At the time of Jolicoeur’s death, Dr. René Clausen, the concert director, was already working on the 2010 offering. However, following her death, he shifted the theme to honor her life and memory, as it would be the first time a large group of alumni and friends of Concordia would be together since the time of her death.

In honor of Jolicoeur, the 2010 theme became “Out of the Darkness.”

“An event like [Jolicoeur’s death] does not go away after the memorial service. It is still something we live with and have to heal through,” Clausen said of preparing the concert for the Concordia community.

The 2009 Concordia College Christmas Concert will be broadcast nationally over the Public Broadcasting System several times in December 2010. Photos provided by Concordia College

Following President Jolicoeur’s death, Clausen shifted the theme for the concert to honor her life and memory, as it would be the first time a large group of alumni and friends of Concordia would be together since the time of her death.

In its 83rd year, the Concordia Christmas Concert is as much known for its visual impact, as it is for the musical impact. Each year behind a full orchestra and five choirs with 450 students stands a mural that is roughly 160 feet long and between 18 and 24 feet high.

In considering both the audio and visual design of the 2010 concert, Clausen wanted a feeling of movement from darkness to light in order to honor the process of healing after the death of their president.

“She would want to shine the light, move forward into the light,” Clausen said of the theme.

An experienced conductor

The 2010 offering will also be special for those who attend not only as a way to honor the life of Pam Jolicoeur, but also because it marks Clausen’s 25th year as director of the Concordia Christmas Concert.

Clausen is a world-renowned composer and conductor. He has written dozens of commissioned and famed pieces and is a frequent guest conductor, composer, and lecturer. For each Christmas concert, Clausen writes one or two unique pieces.

Eric Runestad, director of music organizations at Concordia, says of Clausen, “There is a richness and talent that Concordia has that others don’t because of René.” Calling Clausen, an “artistic genius,” Runestad also says, “We are doubly fortunate that he is a good soul and a great human being. We are fortunate to have him.”

When Clausen first began directing the Concordia Christmas Concert, the choirs were accompanied only by brass instruments. Expanding to a full orchestra has given Clausen the ability to significantly expand the musical repertoire.

Clausen says he tries to make the concert like a tapestry. While concerts generally allow time for the audience to applaud after each piece, Clausen instead includes transitions between large group selections, broken up by smaller presentations, so as to leave the applause for the end.

“I allow solo pieces of each choir. It ebbs and flows through all the choirs, and all together,” he said, noting that in writing a concert in this fashion forces him to “be very aware of how it is leading the audience.”

A national PBS audience

Annually the magic of the Concordia Christmas Concert reaches about 16,000 people with its performances in Moorhead and the Twin Cities. Each year Clausen strives for the highest quality. Last year’s concert was honored for this excellence.

Dr. René Clausen conducts 450 college musicians during the 2009 Concordia College Christmas Concert.

The 2009 performance for public television was honored with an Emmy award.

Every five years, the event is videotaped for airing on public and commercial television stations across the country. The 2009 performance for public television was honored with an Emmy award. This performance will air nationally on PBS on December 13 at 8 p.m. and on December 24 at 8:30 p.m. (Of course, check local PBS listings to confirm details.)

The Concordia Christmas Concert each year brings magic not only to the audience, but also to the students who spend many hours preparing for the event. Reagan Haroldson, a junior from Lakewood, Washington, who sings in the chapel choir, writes, “Being part of the Concordia Christmas Concert means I get to take part in a time-honored tradition to ring in the Christmas season. … It’s something I look forward to every year from the first day of school.”

And Britta Fitzer, a Concordia junior from Jamestown, North Dakota, who is a member of the Concordia Choir, writes, “[Being in the Concordia Choir brings] the privilege of sharing the joy and good news with not only the audience, but with each other as we sing and play the most beautiful music. The Christmas Concert is … a chance to be connected with all people of the earth [who are] … celebrating the joyous gift of Jesus Christ.”

Tickets are on sale for the 2010 concerts. More information is available at www.ConcordiaChristmas.com.

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