Southern groups hope performance becomes tradition

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.

So, it doesn’t hurt to get into the spirit a little early, that is, if you don’t count the week before Thanksgiving as part of the holiday season.

Some people do, but Lawrence Jackson and the Southern University Wind Ensemble will celebrate Thanksgiving before getting down to the business of making final preparations for “A Yuletide Gift of the Spirit.”

This is the where the university’s Wind Ensemble will join the school’s Concert Choir, Liturgical Dance Troupe and the Everett Parker Community Ensemble in a Christmas concert and tree lighting in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Jackson is the university’s director of bands, and just the thought of the Edward Pola-George Wyloe Christmas classic, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” makes him giddy. The Wind Ensemble will be performing it at the concert, but he can’t wait that long.

He has to sing it now. And he does.

“I just love that,” he said, laughing. “It puts me in the Christmas spirit.”

And he hopes the Wind Ensemble, as well as the other groups, will do the same for the concert audience.

This is the second year Southern has staged a Christmas concert. The first was in 2011 in the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts.

“But that venue was really too big for us,” Charles Lloyd said. “We decided to have it on campus this year. It makes it easier for the students to attend.”

Lloyd is a professor in the music department and director of the Concert Choir. The concert was developed to highlight groups in the Southern University Department of Music, for which all ticket proceeds will benefit.

“We’re hoping that this concert will become a Christmas tradition at Southern,” Lloyd said. “We’d like to make it an annual event.”

Lloyd paused to talk after the Concert Choir’s rehearsal the week preceding Thanksgiving. The choir has been smaller during the fall semester, because of the university’s shift from a five-day class week to four days.

“Some classes conflicted with the choir, so a lot of our members weren’t able to take choir this semester,” Lloyd said. “We have about 26 members now, but that should double next semester, because the schedules should be worked out by then.”

But a smaller choir doesn’t mean less music. The Concert Choir will be performing “And the Glory of the Lord” from Handel’s Messiah, as well as several spirituals and Christmas carols.

The Wind Ensemble also will be performing Christmas carols, along with excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite.

“We’ll also be playing ‘Sleigh Ride’ by Leroy Anderson and ‘African Bell Carol’ by Robert Schmidt,” Jackson said. “The ‘African Bell Carol’ is so great. It has a nice percussion part.”

The Wind Ensemble is made up of 55 members. The group usually doesn’t start rehearsing until the spring semester, because its members also are members of the Southern University Marching Band.

“We don’t usually rehearse during the fall, but we get together early for this concert,” ‘Jackson said. “It’s kind of difficult, because we have to go from the loud marching band sound to the warm concert sound of the Wind Ensemble.”

The Wind Ensemble began rehearsing the week before Thanksgiving and will fine tune its songs when returning to school after the Thanksgiving break.

“We don’t have much time,” Jackson said.

But the group will be ready. And its concert finale will be Jackson’s favorite Christmas song.

“I can’t wait,” Jackson said. “I just love it.”

And Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it.