There may not have been a Christmas Fantasia in 1944, but that does not mean that Southern California Bible College senior Hal Keener was not busy preparing for the fast-paced holiday concert season.
The traditional Christmas concert, known as Christmas Fantasia, began in 2000 as music ensembles were quickly outgrowing concert venues.
“We were doing up to six or seven holiday concerts at different churches in a row before we starting doing just two Fantasia performances. Students were exhausted, but we had to perform for as many people as we could,” Chelsea Belardo, class of 2003, said.
Although students were tired, holiday concerts had been an important fund-raising opportunity since the 1920s even when only 235 students attended Southern California Bible College in Pasadena.
Keener, who is now retired after pastoring a church in Illinois for over 40 years, remembers Christmas time being a bit hectic for the Music Department during his time in choir.
He was involved in the concert ensemble and the men’s quartet, which meant he performed with both groups.
“We had something almost every weekend with our groups [the quartet and trio] and even more when it was the holiday season. Then we had the normal holiday concerts for the donors. It was a lot. I think it’s nice that [now] students only perform the two concerts,” Keener said.
Keener is a regular attendee of Christmas Fantasia and even though there are songs that are sung annually, he believes every year is a new experience.
Keener mentioned Dr. James “Doc” Melton, Chair of the Music Department, and his enthusiasm for the way that Melton runs the department.
Keener is not the only member of the Vanguard community who still attends Christmas Fantasia. Dr. Dixie Arnold, Chair of Liberal Studies, and her husband Ed never miss a chance to usher in the Christmas season with Vanguard’s music ensembles.
“It’s the awesome Vanguard students that shine in my life each day, but Christmas Fantasia is a bright light to many in our community that starts their Christmas season with the wonders of Jesus,” Dr. Arnold said.
Whether it was the multiple church concerts performed in earlier years, a holiday performance by the 1944 men’s quartet or women’s trio, or Christmas Fantasia; the Christmas season is ushered in for many by the sounds of Vanguard’s music ensembles.