Vespers Returns to Campus to Feature 'Song of Luke'

In honor of the Augustana Sesquicentennial, Christmas Vespers services will be held on campus for the first time in decades. The musical worship services, which first began in 1938, will be held Dec. 3-4 in the Chapel of Reconciliation.

“Vespers this year is going to be incredibly exciting because it’s going to be held at home, on campus,” said Dr. Ivan Fuller, chair of Augustana’s Performing and Visual Arts Department. “The Augustana Choir, faculty and members of the South Dakota Symphony will be performing a cantata by Cyprian Consiglio called ‘The Song of Luke.’ It’s going to be a musical worship service – very intimate; very beautiful; something we’ll all cherish.”

“To be able to perform on campus, in honor of Christmas, during our Sesquicentennial year – it will be amazing. Our music this year is really going to be the ultimate celebration of the joy of Christmas and the wonder and excitement that is Augustana,” said Dr. James Johnson, professor of Music and director of choirs at Augustana. 

In addition to Vespers, the orchestra and four student choirs will be performing in a new Christmas Celebration at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church on Sunday, Dec. 5, and the Augustana Band, Brass Choir and College Community Band will perform at the Christmas Extravaganza at the Washington Pavilion on Thursday, Dec. 9.

Christmas at Augustana  

  • 2010 Christmas Ornaments In celebration of our Sesquicentennial, the 2010 Christmas ornament features the 150th logo in traditional Augie colors with a blue satin ribbon. Ornaments are $15.00 with all proceeds going to support student scholarships. Order your 2010 ornament today!

Musical Collaboration

Consiglio, a Camaldolese monk, ordained priest, recording artist, performer and composer, collaborated closely with Dr. John Pennington, professor of music at Augustana, to develop “The Song of Luke,” a musical oratorio based on the narrative of Jesus’ infancy according to the Gospel of Luke.

The production will include 25 songs, featuring four solos, four dancers and a cameo by Consiglio, who will perform the role of the narrator. The production will also be broadcast on South Dakota Public Television on Christmas Eve.

Q. There’s a stereotypical image of monks out there – men cloaked in brown robes who chant. You’re far from that! Can you talk about how music has influenced your life and what you hope it brings to audiences and listeners?
A. First of all, the brown-robed guys are usually friars, not monks, like Friar Tuck in Robin Hood. Christian monks usually wear black robes, and sometimes white, as in the case of my congregation of monks, the Camaldolese. I am rather eccentric in terms of observing monastic life in Western Christianity and Roman Catholicism. I have been heavily influenced by Eastern monasticism – both the Christian East and the Far East, Hinduism, and Buddhism. I asked and was given special permission to live on my own for the past eight years. I divide my time between a beautiful quite life in a cabin in the Redwoods of California – and wandering. In either case, teaching and performing music are central to my life.

I like to differentiate between the head and the heart. I've done a lot of study of prayer and spirituality, especially from an ecumenical inter-religious perspective, and I am called upon to teach and write about that often. That reaches the head, the intellectual level. Music on the other hand, sneaks in right to the heart, with a language all its own that is deeper than words. I have seen it heal and soothe and change peoples' hearts.

Q. Talk about how “The Song of Luke” came to be – how did this project develop?
A. I originally had an idea for a strictly liturgical piece – a set of cantillations of the Gospels for the Christmas season that could be strung together with some intervening pieces. Even most of the dances ("divertissements") had originally been written as "liturgical dances." When Dr. Pennington first commissioned me to write it for the Animas Music Festival, we were afraid it wouldn't be long enough, but as I started writing, much more came out of me and it sort of took on a life of its own.

Q. This production will include vocal, instrumental and visual (dancing) elements – talk about how you expect the audience to feel during the event. What emotions are you hoping to evoke?
A. Well, I was aiming for a holistic experience, hence the dance and the instrumentals as well as the recitative and the choral pieces. I suppose if I want the audience to feel anything it is "commissioned." For me, the most important line in the piece is the one that Mary finally gets to sing to the audience at the end, "Blessed are all who hear the Word of God and keep it as a treasure in the heart."

It means that everyone who hears the Word of God and keeps it will come to know that everything He did, He did for us.

Q. Talk about your collaboration with Dr. Pennington. How long have you worked together?
A. John and I have been working together for 21 years. Our relationship has been by far the single most important element in my own composing, recording and performing.

When we began playing together, I had been moving into more serious composition and also producing in the studio. I also had a "new sound" in my head that I couldn't quite incarnate yet. John and his wife, Mary, an accomplished violinist, helped me realize it. John worked on virtually every recording project I did after that, and eventually we began to collaborate in composition and creating recordings in the studio. Hence, our three albums together, ‘In the Heart of the Desert,’ ‘Awakening’ and ‘Compassionate and Wise.’

Though he didn't help write ‘The Song of Luke’, John commissioned it; saw it through like a midwife; has served as musical director for it several times; and produced the recording of it. So, as far as I’m concerned, it's as much his as mine. I can barely imagine doing it without him, and can barely imagine what I would be doing musically without him. We've traveled and performed all over the world together now, including Europe, India and the Mideast. The first question I ask someone when they book me for a concert is, "Can I bring John, too?"

Christmas at Augustana

Following is a list of Augustana events planned to celebrate the joy and magic of Christmas:

Augustana Christmas Vespers: "The Song of Luke"
8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3
3 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4
Chapel of Reconciliation
Tickets are available at or by calling the Augustana Box Office at 605.274.5320.

Christmas Choral Celebration with The Augustana Orchestra
4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5
Our Savior's Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls
Tickets are available at or by calling the Augustana Box Office at 605.274.5320.

The Augustana Bands' Christmas Extravaganza
7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9
Washington Pavilion
Tickets are available at or by calling the Augustana Box Office at 605.274.5320.

Augustana College presents Holiday Jam with the Hegg Brothers
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21
Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minn.
Tickets for this event are available through

Kelly Sprecher
Director of Communications & Media Relations