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Beyond the Music of Christmas Fest

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For more than 20 years, Carthage’s music department has brought the community together with a Christmas celebration, featuring religious readings and songs. This year, “And on Earth, Peace – A Carthage Christmas” will display the many talents found on campus throughout the upcoming weekend – Friday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 4.

Tickets for the performance sold out within days of becoming available, revealing how popular and truly significant this event is to the Carthage community.

Debbie Clark, Assistant to the Campus Pastor and Festival Assistant, said, “The Christmas Festival is so well known in the surrounding communities that we hardly have to advertise anymore. We get calls as early as August inquiring about dates and tickets. Folks will mark their calendars a year in advance to call for tickets the first of October. Over and over again I hear these words ‘we can’t imagine starting our Christmas season without the Christmas Festival.’ When the chapel is filled it’s no longer about where we live or whether we work at Carthage.”

There is more to this weekend then just the music itself. For graduating music students, it is a bittersweet time of reflection, for members of campus organizations, it is a time to become involved, and for members of the community, it is time to come together.

As an annual event, students on campus quickly become aware of the magnitude of Christmas Fest. Especially for music students that have performed each year, Christmas Fest has become symbolic of their journey at Carthage.

Haven Wells, ’17, a music education major said, “As a senior, you step back and take it all in. From your first audition, to the first rehearsal and the first and last performances freshman year. Now, each performance means a little something extra than in the years before. Especially now, for not only the biggest performance of the entire school year but the last performance of my collegiate career. It’s the last time I’ll sit underneath that brightly shining multicolored star and make beautiful music. The last time I’ll share the story of Christmas at Carthage, a story that words cannot tell.”

Throughout senior year, soon-to-be graduates cross off their lasts of almost everything: homecoming, formals, classes, shuttle rides, exams and even Christmas Fest.

“This is my fourth and final performance in Christmas Fest. I’m so happy to share beautiful music with hundreds of people. I’m so looking forward to that surreal moment when the chapel is complete darkness and we light our candles while singing Silent Night. It’s beautiful,” said Marinas Awes, ’17, vocal performance major. “But I can’t help but to be a little bit sad. This will be the last Christmas Fest that I get to share the stage with the Carthage Choir. We are more than just a choir. We’re a family.”

Christmas Fest does not only bring students together, but it also sends feelings of solidarity, compassion and love throughout the entire audience as individuals with diverse backgrounds gather to celebrate – together.

“There’s nothing that touches me more than standing in the balcony holding a lighted candle with 1,300 hundred guests and singing Silent Night. I get goosebumps every time. In that moment we all share what is best spoken with this year’s theme … and on earth, peace,” said Clark.

Similarly, Wells reflected, “Seeing all of my family, friends and the Carthage and Kenosha community gathered to share such an amazing experience through music makes it all worth the struggle it took to get here. Seeing thousands of candles rise in the darkness up to the sky as the bodies crowding the chapel sing “Silent Night” will take my breath away one last time on that stage.”

“Christmas Fest is one way to connect ourselves, not just to the surrounding communities, but to the greater ELCA community. ELCA colleges around the country are doing the same thing we are this coming weekend,” said Kara Baylor, Campus Pastor and Director of Congregational Relations. “Thousands of people will be lifting their voices in song and praise and remembering the story of the birth of Jesus. Combining our voices to make beautiful music hopefully helps us to remember that we are truly better when we join our gifts together.”

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