Arts, On Campus

BC Bands’ ‘Christmas Festival’ Brings Holiday Joy to the Heights

Christmas trees, ugly sweaters, and deer antlers surrounded Boston College Bands as they gathered at 300 Hammond Pond Parkway on Sunday to welcome the holiday season. 

The auditorium quickly filled up, as rings of holiday tunes flooded the Christmas decor-filled reception area. 

Three bands composed the lineup of the concert: The Boston College Symphonic Band (SymBa,) the University Wind Ensemble (UWE,) and BC bOp! Jazz Ensemble. 

SymBa was founded in 2003 in hopes of providing opportunities for musicians to work together and make music. Eventually, SymBa opened up to universities around the greater Boston area, allowing an extensive network of musicians to participate in it. The UWE was introduced in 2005, consisting of high-level musicians selected from a competitive audition process. Finally, BC bOp! Jazz Ensemble—BC’s premier jazz ensemble—performs both within the University and outside in greater Boston. Notable accomplishments include performing at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., jazz festivals in Orlando, Fla., and many other performances at various locations throughout the country.  

Wearing holiday sweaters and accessories, SymBa kicked off the show with “A Fireside Christmas,” a medley consisting of classic Christmas songs like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty The Snowman,” and “Winter Wonderland.” The band followed with “Test Drive (From How To Train Your Dragon Music From The Motion Picture),” showcasing the band’s ability to function and harmonize together. They concluded with “Sleigh Ride,” another classic that showed the band’s synchronizing abilities. SymBa ended on a strong note, receiving loud applause from the audience as the musicians bowed. 

Following a quick intermission accompanied by some saxophone Christmas jazz music, the UWE took over with Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite,” featuring seven pieces from the beloved ballet. Head nods and astonishment filled the audience throughout each piece, as the UWE consistently hit perfect harmonies and dynamics. They finished their performance with “Minor Alterations” by David Lovrien, which is an innovative rendition of Christmas tunes such as “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The show concluded with pieces from BC bOp! Jazz Ensemble. The band blasted “Jingle Bells” in its defining jazz tone. Then, the jazz singers continued with an a cappella rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Let It Snow,” stunningly harmonizing and coordinating every note. 

The band took over again with the jolly “Frosty The Snowman,” before finishing the night with a festive mash up of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” performed by soloist Kaitlyn McLeod, MCAS ’27, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” performed by Vanessa Lorden, MCAS ’24. McLeod entertained the audience with playful choreography while Lorden sang with a strong and passionate voice. 

As a part of the final act, Santa Claus himself made an appearance, interacting with the surprised audience and handing out candy canes. 

“Excited, very excited,” said Sebastian Bonaiuto, the first full-time director of bands and conductor of the Wind Ensemble and BC bOp! 

Bonaiuto has worked with BC Bands since 1989. This Christmas season marks Bonaiuto’s 34th year with the University’s bands. He previously conducted ensembles throughout the world and even at New York’s famous Carnegie Hall. Under his leadership, BC bOp! became an award-winning, nationally recognized ensemble. 

“The pleasure of my entire career is working with the students and making music with them, and they were just phenomenal,” Bonaiuto said. 

December 7, 2023