Christmas with Wartburg will take place for the 73rd time but for the first time with no live audience.

 The event, which features eight music ensembles, will record over the course of three days. Each day will consist of a different ensemble recording for an hour.

“Over a year ago we started the process of picking a theme and thinking about music and things like that, but once COVID hit in realizing that the chances of us doing a normal Christmas of Wartburg (CWW) were very low. So, in April I was sort of in a ‘Let’s wait and see mode,’ and by the time we got to May, we were already talking about other options and figuring out how we could still create Christmas with Wartburg, but not in the same way,” Dr. Lee Nelson, executive director of CWW and director of Wartburg Choir, said. “We’ve totally revamped it. It’s not going to look anything like it has before.”

Ensembles will be recording in and outside the Wartburg Chapel rather than in Neumann Auditorium to allow for the best sound quality and social distancing. With the help of Marketing and Communication and an outside recording service from Cedar Falls, the performance will be pieced together.


“At the start of the year, I think everyone had a lot of questions that no one really had an answer to.  None of us knew how long we’d even be here, let alone how CWW would work out,” Spencer Dodgen, Wind Ensemble president and fourth-year biochemistry major, said. “We [students] have been fairly involved in providing our opinions and concerns about safety.”

Through the planning process of keeping students safe and making a cohesive celebration of CWW, there still remains hope with students and the directors that this year’s show will have the same feeling as past shows. 

The theme of this year’s CWW is “Hope Awakens, Loves New Dawn,” this theme being a representation of 2020, according to Nelson.

“It’ll be unlike any of those [previous performances], and something that will probably be looked at in the archives and for years to come up,” Nelson said. “Our theme sort of discusses what’s going on in the world right now both from a social justice standpoint but also with the pandemic.”

Like many other challenges in 2020, CWW will provide students with another life lesson of how to accept and handle change, according to Nelson. Students of CWW are hoping to maintain a positive attitude about the new form of their performances and accepting it as an opportunity to become a better musician. 

“I’m excited to see the growth that comes from it because it’s always like the things that are most challenging that you sort of let you learn the most,” Grace Becker, choir nurse, said. “Right now it’s really difficult to maneuver everything and get used to all the new norms but I think once everything’s done we’re going to be better.”

Families, friends and members of the community will still be able to listen to CWW and participate. Dodgen said he hopes that while the audience and the ensembles will not be together physically, they can relish in their time apart to celebrate.

“One of the things we always talk about in Wind Ensemble is playing for someone you love, even if they aren’t physically present because CWW is one of those special opportunities for not only us, but the other ensembles on campus to express that,” Dodgen said. “Even though we won’t have an audience to be there in person, we’re still going to play as if our families and friends are there to support us, enjoy the music and the message of CWW.”

More information regarding the 73rd annual Christmas with Wartburg will be released at wartburg.edu/christmas/.


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