UK’s Collage holiday concert celebrates 25 years


Carter Skaggs

Associate Direct of UK Choral Activities Lorie Hetzel conducts the entire choir ensemble during the 25th annual “Collage: A Holiday Special” on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Carter Skaggs | Staff

Paul Schlowak, Reporter

The University of Kentucky’s School of Music celebrated a special anniversary this past weekend: the 25th annual “Collage: A Holiday Spectacular”.

Collage is a yearly concert at UK that paves the way for the holiday season, featuring choral groups and instrumentalists from the university and Lexington community. The concert was held twice on Saturday, Dec. 3, and once on Sunday, Dec. 4, in the Singletary Center for the Arts to three sold out audiences.

Before the first Saturday concert started, audience members gathered, chatted and ate snacks.

Sister McGann of Divine Providence said she came to enjoy the event with friends.

“(My friends) have been here before, and they say it’s magnificent,” she said. “I just like music. It’s something I really enjoy very much. It’s my first time here.”

UK’s Director of Choral Activities Jefferson Johnson and Associate Director of Choral Activities Lori Hetzel introduced the concert, which featured around 400 performers. They asked the attendees to raise their hands if they were seeing the concert for the first time, and roughly one third of them raised their hands. For many other spectators, the concert is a tradition – a start into the holiday season.

“My husband and I, when we first started dating, started coming with his family. It’s been a kind of a holiday tradition every year,” Joey Conrad, a UK staff member, said.

The concert opened with “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and included many different songs such as “Believe,” “Jingle Bells” and a bluegrass rendition of “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

During the two-hour performance, many choirs and bands performed, including the UK Women’s Choir, UK Men’s Chorus, UK Choristers, Chorale, UK Saxcats and other solo performances.

The entirety of the performance was dynamic and multifarious.

By adjusting and altering lighting, volume, choir, band and instruments, the concert provoked funny, powerful or melancholic moments and moods.
When “O Come All Ye Faithful” played, the audience sang along with the combined choirs.

To close the performance, the lights in the hall went out, leaving the audience in pitch black as “Silent Night” was sung by all of the choral groups and performed by instrumentalists. As the choir began to sing, the choir periodically lit candles and lifted them up in the air.

By the end of the song and the concert, the candlelight illuminated the choirs as the last voices evaporated.

Quickly afterwards, thunderous applause erupted.

Luke Schlake, a member of the UK Men’s Chorus, said the choir came a long way from dress rehearsal.

“We did a dress rehearsal last night, and I think we did well, but I think we did even better today,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best UK traditions we have.”