Tradition is one word that NDP knows well, and at Christmas time traditions abound. The campus is beautifully decorated, tree trim carols resound, advisories organize gifts for families in need and secret Santas stash secret gifts where you least expect to find them!
Eleven years ago music teacher, Jerry Smith, came to NDP after a long career in Baltimore County Public schools and a short career in retirement teaching college choral music. This is Mr. Smith’s fifty-seventh year in the classroom! Upon his arrival at Notre Dame, Smith instituted the tradition of the Christmas Concert Honor solo, which he had used throughout his teaching. Now, eleven years later, Stacy Bilenki, NDP’s current choral director, continues the tradition that has become a treasured part of the NDP Christmas season.
Each year one singer is selected by audition to sing “O Holy Night” at the conclusion of the Christmas evening concert accompanied by the chorus. This ritual is repeated at the conclusion of our most beloved tradition – Christmas Liturgy. As the combined chorus rings the auditorium holding candles, and surrounded by the entire community, and numerous young alumnae who come home to celebrate with us, this soloist leads us not only in song but also in prayer to honor of Our Lady, Notre Dame, and the birth of Jesus. It is a joyful start to the most sacred days of Christmas! We thought it might be fun to ask some of these soloists to reflect on the experience. Here is what they had to say:
Megan Cain’13 Honor Soloist 2013
“The experience of singing “O Holy Night” was just as the title suggests—holy. I have never been in a performance where I felt God more closely than when the entire chorus joined in singing “Fall on your knees…” Standing among sisters and making beautiful music, it is easy to feel God’s presence so deliberately; you can almost hear what Heaven sounds like. I am honored to have been part of this beautiful tradition, one of many that make NDP so extraordinary.”
Monica Rosenblatt ‘12 Honor Soloist 2011 and 2012
“I remember watching Colleen Cumberpatch ’11 sing the solo when I was a freshman and sophomore and hoping that someday I might get a chance. Looking back, it felt like the biggest thing in the world to have been given that solo! I vividly remember crying at the end of the song because that’s what music has the power to do. A classmate of mine whispered “Thank you” to me while she clapped. It had nothing to do with how I sang and everything to do with music’s ability to impact lives in such a dramatic way. I still weep every time I hear the song.”
2015 Honor Soloist, Maddie Saldana ‘18, is the first sophomore to receive this honor. As she looks forward to the concert next week here’s what is going through her mind:
“When I auditioned for the “O Holy Night” solo I never expected to be chosen, especially since I am only just a sophomore. Just thinking about singing in front of the entire NDP community sends me on a roller coaster of emotions. I feel more than a little nervous, extremely excited, and very thankful for this chance. To be a part of this NDP tradition is so wonderfully amazing it just makes me want to sing!”
Click on the link below for a preview of her performance!