Sounds of the Season: Holiday Music on Campus

Author: Shannon Rooney


Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like festive music from our favorite campus ensembles. The sounds of the Christmas Season are all around us with concerts, visiting performers, and special cantors and ensembles at Christmas Masses. 

The season kicked off with the Department of Music presenting a concert in early December by the Notre Dame Chorale, the official concert choir of the University. Professor Alexander Blachly led the Chorale, Festival Baroque Orchestra, and student soloists in Handel’s Messiah. The performance is an annual Notre Dame tradition.

"Messiah this year included a new chorus we've never done before—we don't do the whole piece, just most of the first two parts—and we're performing with a Baroque orchestra which we've done in years past but is always exciting. The [master's of sacred music students] also sing with us and they give us a really great energy," says senior Jarissa Sabal, who sings alto with the Notre Dame Chorale.   

The University Band also presented a concert in early December, which included marches, contemporary concert band pieces, holiday music, and traditional Notre Dame favorites. The University Band is a concert band for current students as well as staff, faculty, and alumni of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College.

The same weekend featured Lessons and Carols, an annual service with all Basilica choirs that involves audience members as they sing along to favorite Christmas selections. The Glee Club and Symphony Orchestra also perform an annual Christmas Concert, which this year included Nutcracker Suite, works by Bizet and Susa, and varied arrangements of traditional and contemporary music. 

With the abundance of holiday music at Notre Dame, students have many ways to get involved, whether as a performer or audience member. "There is such a wealth of talent at the University, and it's expressed in various ways; this is particularly true with the campus musical ensembles this time of year," says Daniel Stowe, professor of music, who directs the Notre Dame Glee Club, Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra and Notre Dame Collegium Musicum. "We have wonderful performances of Handel's Messiah each December with the Chorale and Chamber Orchestra; Christmas concerts with the Glee Club and Symphony Orchestra; Lessons and Carols with the Basilica Choirs; and there are a number of student a cappella groups who include holiday material in their end-of-semester fall concerts. There's never a dull musical moment around here when December rolls around."     

Junior Lisa von Werder, who sings alto and soprano 2 when needed, in the Notre Dame Chorale says that the music scene on campus brings joy to the Season and her life on campus in general. "My favorite part of performing with the Chorale is the community that comes from it! There are so many people of different backgrounds but our mutual love for music brings us together," says von Werder.

Learn More

Click the links below for more information about musical ensembles and holiday performances/services on campus.