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John Lamb, Published November 30 2011

Concordia Christmas Concert a feast for eyes and ears

If you go

What: “Today, Heaven Sings,” the Concordia Christmas Concert

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Memorial Auditorium, Concordia

Info: Tickets are $13, plus applicable fees. (888) 477-0277 or www.concordiachristmas.com.

When Foster Beyers picks up the baton Friday night, it will be no small task.

It will be his first time conducting Concordia College’s eagerly anticipated annual Christmas Concert, and it will be the largest production he’s ever undertaken.

“Even the first time I conducted the rehearsal with 400 singers and a 70-piece orchestra, easily a record for the biggest amount of human beings I’ve ever conducted at once, I was a little nervous,” says the first-year conductor of orchestras.

The concert repeats with two shows on Saturday and one on Sunday.

While he’d never attended the Christmas concerts, Beyers, who comes from the University of Minnesota, knew the concert’s national reputation for quality, both in the music and the visual presentation.

For the third year Paul Johnson has designed the backdrop mural, a colorful look at the first chapter of Genesis.

“It’s a complete aesthetic experience. That mural is just gorgeous and tells the story of the concert by just looking at it,” Beyers says. “That with incredible choirs singing from all locations in Memorial Auditorium, it’s an incredibly powerful experience to hear that many musicians make that wonderful music together.”

At one point the choirs spill onto the floor, surrounding the audience, then one by one, singing songs of the season. This year features a mix of classic Christmas works such as “Joy to the World,” “Angels we have Heard on High” and “Silent Night” along with originals by artistic director and choir conductor, René Clausen.

Beyers is particularly excited about opening with Edward Elgar’s “Nimrod” from “Enigma Variations” before moving into Clausen’s “In the Beginning, God.”

“Music is such a powerful way for us to remember the best events of our past,” Beyers says. “I think everyone when they hear Christmas music, they relate good things in their life to the sound of that music.”

While he’s been working on seasonal music for months, he’s not sick of Christmas songs, nor in a hurry to get through this weekend’s shows or those on Dec. 8 in Minneapolis.

“This opportunity to repeat a concert is not a burden for musicians. We’re always looking for ways to do it better. A perfect concert has never been given,” Beyers says.

“If we started rehearsing the Christmas concert in September, I might feel differently,” he adds with a laugh.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533