The arts bring us together in ways we otherwise wouldn’t connect — especially at the holidays. And it isn’t all fun and games. The holidays are heavy for a lot of people. People have experienced great losses over the past 18 months, but how healing it is to connect through a medium like music which is about emotion.
Connection is, to me, what it’s about, whether it’s reconnecting with old friends or connecting with families, which we’ve all been longing for.
Tickets for A Festival of Carols are not on sale yet, although our phone has been ringing.
It’s a three-night event. The shows typically sell out, so we’re talking 800 to 850 people per night. It is a performance based on the English tradition of lessons and carols. All three of our choirs perform, our orchestra performs, and a brass ensemble will perform. But the highlights are the all-ensemble sings. “Once in Royal David City” is one. What’s remarkable is that the program has basically been the same for all 18 Festival of Carols we’ve done, and it still gets me a little choked up every time.
We had our first Performing Arts Series concert on September 17, and it was just fantastic to be back together. The audience was electric. It was this collective sigh of, ‘Wow, we’re back!’ tinged with a little bit of anxiety because it’s 500 people together in a room again.
In that first concert, I came out to welcome and recognize one of our corporate sponsors. I just managed to get out the words ‘Goshen Health,’ and the audience erupted in applause. There was such strong support for our healthcare workers in our community. It was just so real. And the artists were just as excited — they hadn’t performed in 18 months. It was an evening of gratitude. It was perfect.
For big concerts, reserve seating events, we require masks to be worn indoors and either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within 48 hours. But for Goshen College music ensembles — because those are general seating and you are able to distance — we just require masks.
One of the things we’re providing as a service is a Covid testing site here for anyone who needs to be tested. They pay for it, but it’s another opportunity for us not to have to turn people away unless they don’t want to follow those rules.
Our mission is to connect with the broader community beyond Goshen College and expand our footprint more broadly. It didn’t feel right not to have our doors wide open, so it’s thrilling to have them open — cautiously! safely! but mostly wide open! — to the community again.
The arts are meant to be experienced in community and live. There is no substitute — as great as recordings and virtual performances are — for a group of human beings in the same space together experiencing the arts. Those performances touch the core of who we are.
— Brian Mast, executive director, Goshen College Music Center
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Written and edited by Wendy Wilson
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