Darkness falls upon the wide, spanned-out space as audience members settle in their seats. Then, with a certain careful and sequential awe, small glimmers of light appear with a heart-silencing host of reverent voices singing “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent.”
This is Vanguard University’s Christmas Fantasia.
Combining the diverse assortment of VUs music majors including Orchestra, Choir, the Women’s Chorus, Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo, Christmas Fantasia swept a wide variety of emotion and reverence to a very special time of the year. But it was also interactive. Early on there was a “Festival of Carols” at which the choirmaster, James L. Melton, DMA, Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Vanguard encouraged the audience to stand up and partake in.
Not long after that, members of the female choir, all in long, lacy blue dresses came out and filled the parameters of the halls with real brass bells, incorporating it into the next performance, “Christmas Time.”
The many elaborate numbers and performances change around every year. What made this particular year special is the fact that it marked the twentieth anniversary.
“Twenty years ago Fantasia began in a tent. And now there are thousands attending,” Vanguard University president, Michael J. Beals, PhD, said.
The Reneé and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall is not to be confused with the Segerstrom Hall next door. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has the Hall for plays and performances and the Concert Hall for a wide variety of music venues. The entrance itself is a stunning and whimsical multi-layered art piece with shining glass, granite, and light creating a circular effect that draws crowds together.
The concert hall itself is melodic in its structure and layers and was imagined in such a way that no matter where a person is seated, they can just about see everyone else. This might seem intimidating to some, but it has a cozy effect that helps create a kindred togetherness upon the focus toward the main stage.
This elegant venue is what Vanguard’s music department has had the opportunity to work for about a decade now. When Christmas Fantasia debuted in 1997, it was originally meant to be a traditional Christmas concert. Students were performing up to seven holiday concerts at different churches until settling on just two locations. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach and the Segerstrom Concert Hall have been those two locations for the past several years now.
Students like Paul Hines, a music major who has performed in the University Concert Choir at Segerstrom for this event for three years now said, “To me, I feel it’s cool. Each school has its own opportunities at various concert halls. Segerstrom is one of the most known out there. It’s a great opportunity! I have always really liked singing, but I get nervous. Then I tell myself, ‘You enjoy singing – sing!’ Then I want others to enjoy it as well.”
There was a dedication and passion that came from the souls of the students. Technically, this performance was the final for these students enrolled in the given classes this semester. This revelation was a shocker. Most of the time, music majors take their role very seriously.
Beals said that Vanguard University’s vocal and instrumental ensembles have performed throughout the United States and in venues across Europe, China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico and Canada.
“They have been invited to return engagements at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and have earned a reputation as one of the premiere Christian music programs in the nation,” he said.
This year, with the $5-off promo code, seats ranged from $20-$45 a seat. It’s a magnificent view no matter where one decides to book their seats, which are plush and red-upholstered. For an otherwise exclusive venue space, prices are very reasonable for any struggling college student.