High-Definition TV Crews On Campus For 'Christmas At Baylor' Taping

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Crews work on the staging and technical set-up in Truett Seminary's Great Hall, where the Faculty Brass Quintet performed for the high-definition television special, "Christmas at Baylor."
Dec. 4, 2002

High-definition television crews are on the Baylor University campus this week to tape "Christmas at Baylor," a holiday special featuring orchestras and choirs from the Baylor School of Music that will be available to PBS stations throughout the country next holiday season.

The program showcases a high point of the holidays at Baylor - the annual choral concert in Jones Concert Hall - and includes special performances in the majestic McLean Foyer of Meditation in Armstrong Browning Library and the warm and reflective Paul and Katy Piper Great Hall in George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

"This is an outstanding opportunity for Baylor to showcase its talented students and faculty and to give the country a glimpse of our beautiful campus all decked out for the Christmas season," said Larry D. Brumley, associate vice president for external relations.

A full week of taping Dec. 1-7 encompasses the performances as well as shots of carolers on campus.

"We're making a real effort to give the show a sense of place," said Phillip Byrd, an Emmy Award-winning television producer in Montclair, N.J., who has produced Christmas programs with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Utah and at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

"Christmas is not the same every place," Byrd said. "It's the same holiday, but it's a different celebration in Texas than it is in Utah than it is in Minnesota."

Byrd's recent productions include "Jessye Norman: A Holiday Homecoming," "Cincinnati Pops Holiday: Christmas With Robert Shaw," "Atlanta Symphony Gospel Christmas" and "Preservation Hall Jazz Band -- A Night in New Orleans." He won a national prime time Emmy Award for "Wolf Trap Presents the Kirov: Swan Lake" and served as producer and director of the PBS series "On Stage at Wolf Trap."

About half of "Christmas at Baylor" will be assembled from two concert performances in Jones Hall. During the concert, the Baylor Choral Union -- the combined A Cappella and Concert choirs -- and the Baylor Symphony Orchestra will perform Christmas music, including selections such as "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "O Holy Night." Other scheduled recordings include the Faculty Brass Quintet in Truett Seminary and the Chamber Singers in Armstrong Browning Library.

Carolers on campus will be taped to serve as a transitional element in the program and to give viewers a feel for Baylor's campus.

The December taping mixes local talent and experts brought in from across the country. KWBU-TV has been an integral part of the process from the beginning, with production supervisor Joani Livingston involved in early planning and brainstorming. She said the taping gives KWBU staff and Baylor telecommunication students a taste of what goes into a national production.

"This is a much bigger project than anything we've done before," she said. "It's a learning process for us to do something on this scale."

Being able to produce a show of this caliber and then distribute it through PBS is part of what Baylor had in mind when KWBU came under the University umbrella in 1999. Brumley said the School of Music wanted a conduit to the public television system to deliver programs nationally that would spotlight Baylor.

Dr. Stephen M. Heyde, professor and director of orchestral activities, The Mary Franks Thompson Professor of Orchestral Studies and Conductor-in-Residence, sees "Christmas at Baylor" as an ideal showcase event. Familiar with the PBS special featuring St. Olaf College, Dr. Heyde said he had wanted Baylor to have its own.

"It's fabulous. I think so many people know about St. Olaf's, and they know it partly because of its Christmas show," he said. "It's an opportunity for people all over the country to know what fabulous students we have."

When the special comes out in 2003, Baylor will have passed a century mark of granting music degrees, a reflection of the important place music has held in the School's curriculum, said Dr. Will V. May, dean of the School of Music.

KWBU serves as the presenting station for the special, which will be available for the 2003 holiday season. When a program is distributed nationally, it is available to 374 stations nationwide and each station decides about whether or not to run the program.

The fact that the show is produced in HDTV may provide additional benefits. "Public broadcasters are starved for programs in high definition television," he said. "Plus it will have the sharpest images, the clearest sound. This technology really allows us to capture all the music and sights in all their glory."

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