Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Jefferson Johnson


The choral departments of St. Olaf College, Emory University, Florida State University, and the University of Kentucky are well-known for their excellent and successful programs. In addition to respected and accomplished choirs, each of these schools offer a choir-centric, winter holiday event. The traditions and community relationships that have developed through these programs are reflections of the strengths of these schools’ choral departments. Each event may serve as a model for individuals to adapt and modify for their own programs.

The St. Olaf College Christmas Festival premiered in 1912 and offers a look into how such a program may serve as a campus-wide event. Featuring five choirs and orchestra, this model utilizes many massed choir works, solo ensemble compositions, and opportunities for the audience to join the choirs in song. The Christmas Festival Artistic Committee is comprised of St. Olaf College ensemble conductors, religious leaders, and a visual designer. The director of the St. Olaf Choir serves as the Artistic Director, though all decisions are discussed with the committee. Each Christmas Festival is organized around a theme. The Artistic Committee works together to design the theme, select the repertoire, and determine program order.

Emory University’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is based on the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols presented by King’s College, Cambridge, England each year. First offered on Emory University’s campus in 1935, this version of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols features the university’s two academic choirs, organ, piano, and often small brass ensemble. The standard King’s College lessons are read by a variety of readers with anthems and carols interspersed between them. This event is a religious service, though many in the community view it as a choral Christmas concert. The audience/congregation joins the choirs in singing multiple traditional carols. Several repertoire selections remain the same each year, including “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light,” and “Still, Still, Still/ Silent Night.”

Florida State University’s Seasonal Celebration showcases each of the university’s choirs as well as the Tallahassee Community Chorus. First presented in 1997, this event is organized by the graduate conducting students and overseen by the choral conducting faculty. Repertoire selections change each year, though the opening and closing selections are always sung by all participating choirs combined. Predominately secular in nature, this event features a variety of genres and styles. The audience is invited to sing multiple holiday songs, led by a faculty voice member.

The University of Kentucky Holiday Collage began in 1998 and is presented by the University of Kentucky Choirs with a variety of guest ensembles and artists. This model is based on contrasts in texture, genre, ensemble size, and type. In addition to featuring all the University of Kentucky Choirs, it regularly offers performances by the Lexington Singers Children’s Choir, the UK Steel Drum Band, a clarinet choir, brass ensembles, handbells, and guitar, among other guest musicians. Another key feature of Holiday Collage is the pacing. Each composition flows from one to another without pause or applause, aided by dramatic and specific lighting. The audience joins in singing one or more traditional holiday songs during the program. The concert is structured so that the opening and closing portions feature sacred repertoire and the middle of the concert is predominantly secular.

This monograph offers an overview of the histories of each of these events, exploring their traditions, repertoire selections, and planning processes. It draws on previously published information, printed programs from the past 20 years, and interviews with faculty and staff of each school, both current and retired.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)