This year’s Keyboards & Carols at Christmas featured 16 Steinway pianos, 204 hand-lit candles, two Kanstul herald fanfare trumpets, nearly 200 Southwestern singers, and 46 pianists ranging in age from preschool children to seminary students to seminary faculty. These elements combined to produce a musical experience that covered the entire gamut of musical styles, from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” to “O Holy Night.” More than 3,250 people attended, and 2,150 watched the live feed online.
In reference to the variety of music presented, Dean of the School of Church Music Leo Day joked, “If you leave here tonight unhappy about anything, it is your fault. We’ve done our part, and now I want you to do your part by just being open to the Holy Spirit tonight and letting God speak to you through the music.”
Day deemed the Dec. 8 event “Southwestern Night,” as all the performers were part of the Southwestern family. The singers included the Southwestern Music Academy, the Southwestern Singers, the Southwestern International Children’s Choir, and the Southwestern Master Chorale. Furthermore, multiple pieces from the evening were composed or arranged by Southwestern faculty—including Nathan Burggraff, Christopher Teichler, and Jerry Aultman—and Southwestern alumnus Jeff Bennett (Master of Arts in Religious Education, 1987).
An “All-Steinway School” since last year, Southwestern’s collection of Steinway pianos were prominently featured, not the least because 16 of them were positioned on stage for the entire performance. One musical piece particularly highlighted these fine instruments: “Fantasy on Carol of the Bells,” which featured different parts for each of the 16 pianos. The piece was arranged by Assistant Professor of Music Theory Nathan Burggraff.
Another of the evening’s unique features was the presence of two Kanstul herald fanfare trumpets, which were donated to the seminary by Clarice Kearley in memory of her late husband, Richard Kearley Jr. These two trumpets were used to perform four fanfares—written by Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition Christopher Teichler—throughout the evening.
Near the conclusion of the performance, Southwestern President Paige Patterson said, “You could have traveled anywhere in the world this Christmas, and you would not have heard what you heard tonight.” Alluding to both the student and children performers, he continued, “I want to emphasize to you that this is the future of our churches. We will never again have great music in our churches if we don’t teach our young people.”
Patterson encouraged attendees to contribute to the School of Church Music’s scholarship fund, saying, “If [these students] go to a state music school, they’ll have a scholarship as sure as the world, [but] they will not learn one single, solitary thing about Christ or how to lead music at a church or to develop a choir program. If they come here, they learn all of that, and you will have made it possible.”