School of the Arts

Glorious Sounds of the Season

History of Glorious Sounds of the Season

woman with santa hat next to words reading "Glorious Sounds of the Season"

This year's annual holiday concert, Glorious Sounds of the Season, takes place Friday–Saturday, December 6–7 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 8 at 2 p.m. in Harlen Adams Theatre. All tickets are $20, and the proceeds benefit student scholarships. Purchase tickets at CSU, Chico's University Box Office, 530-898-6333.

The creator of Glorious Sounds of the Season, now a Chico holiday tradition, is Jeffrey Gemmell. Gemmell first started this festive concert at Chico State in 1999 as a large choral concert featuring University Chorus, Ying Yeh (opera singer), and David Rothe (organist). Gemmell chose the title for the concert because every piece included either “Gloria” or “Glorious” within the title such as the song, “And the Glory of the Lord.”

The format of the concert has always been described as “kaleidoscopic,” since Gemmell designed the performance to have small groups of performers scattered throughout the hall. Mike Bankhead (the Department of Music and Theatre chair at the time) inspired Gemmell to pursue the current concert format. Bankhead and Gemmell were both involved with other concerts that had a “kaleidoscopic” format, specifically at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which inspired them to take the concept and run with it. 

Choir and band players directed by David Scholz with a winter background

“…Our foundational plans at Chico State took this concept and put it on steroids,” Gemmell said.

Gemmell and Bankhead wanted to include the entire Department of Music and Theatre in creating a scholarship fundraiser that would be beneficial to everyone: faculty, students, and the department. This scholarship program helped attract the finest students into the department and concert as well.

Gemmell recalls his most amusing and satisfying memory from producing the concert, which occurred during the first year of the large-scale departmental production in December 2000. During the production week of the concert, there was a faculty meeting where he had to explain how the concert was going to work. He discussed the concepts of the fast-paced movement of the groups during the concert (in the dark) while music was going to be performed in the light. Most people were on the same page as Gemmell and trusted his judgment; however, others thought it was going to be a complete “circus.”

man wearing santa hat and playing accordion

On top of that, Gemmell did not want there to be applause after each performance in order to keep a smooth transition between each song. This bothered some of the faculty and performers because they thought their excellence was not going to be recognized. Even after being instructed not to, there was one performer who had their family clap for them at the concert. Despite some individuals' early concern, the concert was amazing and a success.

The duplication of this concert at other colleges has also been very successful. Gemmell believes that what secured him his current job at Millersville University was the idea of making Glorious Sounds of the Season into a scholarship fundraiser. This became a reality in 2006 when he became a faculty member of the university.  

“My experiences at Chico State allowed the Millersville faculty to trust me right off the bat, and the concert was an immediate success,” Gemmell said.   

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Story by Tashia Jones, School of the Arts publicity assistant