Without snow, (or even a cool breeze) to usher in December, how do central Floridians get into the holiday spirit? For many of us, that sentimental feeling starts when we hear seasonal tunes streaming in from storefronts, commercials and car radios. Family holiday traditions also serve to awaken pleasantly warm memories when December rolls around – even when it’s 80 degrees outside.
Since its launch in 2021, UCF’s annual Knights Season of Joy concert is becoming a holiday tradition for local families. Featuring holiday music performed by UCF’s choir and orchestra ensembles, the production will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
“Anyone that enjoys music will love a UCF choir and orchestra concert, no matter what time of the year,” says Kelly Miller, choir conductor, associate professor and coordinator of music education at UCF’s School of Performing Arts. “But what makes this concert special is that music lovers can experience many different genres of holiday music, and it’s a wonderful experience that can be enjoyed by the entire family.”
Knights Season of Joy consists of 150 choir singers, orchestra musicians, soloists and guest performers. They will present holiday music from a variety of genres, from classic Christmas songs like “Sleigh Ride” and “Hallelujah Chorus” to holiday tunes from across cultures and religions, including the Jewish new year song “Bashana Haba’ah” and the Yoruba song “Betelehemu.” Some songs will feature only choir ensembles and soloists, some will feature only the UCF orchestra, and many will feature both.
“I have a favorite song for each of my choirs,” says Miller. “Our soprano alto choir is doing an incredibly beautiful piece called ‘All Shall Be Well’ by Sarah Quartel, and it has such poignant lyrics for this time in the world. The UCF Community Choir is doing a piece I love that was arranged by one of my mentors called ‘Homeland’, and it uses the theme of Jupiter from Holst’s larger work The Planets, so many people will recognize the melody from that. Then my tenor bass choir is doing a great barbershop arrangement of ‘Jingle Bells.’ And they’re fantastic; it’s such a joy to be a part of.”
Throughout her work in the School of Performing Arts, Miller has helped shape the growth of UCF’s five different choir ensembles. She also runs the music education program: Under her leadership, it has developed into one of the strongest programs of its kind in the nation. Earlier this year, she was recognized for her work by the Florida Music Education Association when she was awarded 2022 College Music Educator of the Year.
Choral songs will also be conducted by Jeffery Redding, director of choral activities at UCF. Since arriving at UCF in 2020, he has created an exciting new vision for UCF’s choir ensembles. In 2019, he received a GRAMMY Music Educator Award.
Directing UCF’s orchestra is James Welsh, music director and Symphonic Orchestra Conductor of Florida Symphony Youth Orchestras and the Interim Director of Orchestra at UCF. Welsh has extensive experience preparing and conducting orchestra, opera, musical theater and ensemble performances.
The UCF orchestra program serves around 200 students from across the university through two ensembles: the Symphony Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra. The program provides a musical outlet for string, brass, woodwind and percussion players from throughout the university who can audition regardless of major.
UCF’s choral ensembles include the Chamber Singers, the SoAl (Women’s) Chorus, the TeBa (Men’s) Chorus, the University Singers, the UCF Children’s Choir and the UCF Community Choir.
“All of our choirs are open for anybody at UCF, and most of our members are non-majors with a passion for music. And then our UCF Community Choir and Children’s Choir is open for anyone in the community,” Miller says. “So, we’ve got something for everyone.”
Miller hopes that Knights Season of Joy will shape up to become a major production and holiday tradition for families and friends in central Florida. Through diverse variations, tempos and styles, Knights Season of Joy mixes the nostalgic with the new to ring in that comfort and joy we’ve all been looking for this year.
Tickets start at $19.75 and can be purchased through the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts website.