Arts, On Campus

University Chorale and BC Symphony Orchestra Come Together for Annual “Christmas on the Heights” Concert

The University Chorale of Boston College and the Boston College Symphony Orchestra filled Trinity Chapel with Christmas carols on the opening night of their annual “Christmas on the Heights” concert on Friday.

The groups also held performances of the concert on Saturday and Sunday. 

John Finney, director of both groups, welcomed the crowd and invited audience members to sing along to the show’s opening song “Joy to the World.” Finney is in his 30th year directing both University Chorale and the BC Symphony Orchestra. 

The powerful voices of Chorale’s singers filled the chapel and combined with the upbeat sound from the orchestra for an energizing performance of the classic Christmas song. This piece was followed by “Tollite Hostias” from Oratorio de Noël by Camille Saint-Saëns. After the performance, Finney reminisced on his experience conducting University Chorale as it sang the song underneath a waterfall during the group’s trip to Puerto Rico in 1994. 

The groups then performed “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” which featured multiple instrumental and vocal soloists. It began with a beautifully intricate blend of violin, viola, and cello music. Then, sweet sounds of the harp slowly trickled into the musical introduction. 

Singers joined in with passionate voices and soloists Elizabeth Ratliff, CSOM ’23; Nicole Graziano, MCAS ’23; and Bridget Corcoran, MCAS ’23, each led a verse. 

The groups then delivered a performance of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” during which robust and angelic singing voices resonated throughout the chapel. The sound of trumpets triumphantly joined halfway through, making a clear impact on the overall sound and blending with the voices of the singers. As soon as the elongated final note of the piece came to an end, immediate applause filled the chapel. 

The next two performances were of “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” and “Ding Dong Merrily on High,” which each highlighted the vocal variation throughout the chorale as high and low voices alternated singing throughout the pieces. 

Next, the orchestra alone performed “Trepak,” a well-known piece from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The orchestra created an invigorating sound that excited the audience. 

Next came “O Holy Night,” which contrasted the previous songs’ intensity with its calming sound. The performance began peacefully and softly, with the soothing melody of the flute adding a layer of dimension to the work’s sound. The impact grew as more instruments joined and the voices of the entirety of University Chorale came together, maintaining the tranquil energy of the piece until the end. 

“A Christmas Festival” followed, which Finney described as a “wonderful tapestry of Christmas music.” The song included excerpts of “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Halls,” and more Christmas classics. The orchestra aided singers in transitioning from one melody to the next, creating a seamless, uninterrupted sound.

“Sleigh Ride,” which the orchestra performed by itself, was one of the night’s most notable performances because of the song’s familiarity and the musicians’ delivery. The performance incorporated a wide range of sound effects, including pieces of wood clapping together to mimic a whip, and the work finished with a stringed instrument loudly mimicking a horse’s neigh. 

To finish the night, Finney invited former members of University Chorale to join the group on stage and perform “Hallelujah!” from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. Former members of the group filed to the front of the chapel, some embracing as they reunited with old friends. 

December 4, 2022