A selection of performances from the 2018 Holiday Gala. All photos by Chris Record
Alyssa Tirrell ‘22
As the lights dim the voice of Christopher Gilliam echoes through the Duke Family Performance Hall, welcoming the audience to the Annual Davidson College Holiday Gala. The stage brightens, revealing a full chorus, orchestra, jazz band, and a troupe of sequined dancers. These 300 performers, including over 150 Davidson students, will each contribute to the yearly spectacle of Gala.
The Davidson Holiday Gala gathers community members, students, and even people from beyond our small community to celebrate the season, not just on stage but in the audience as well. “Music is a great way to bring people together, and the Holiday Gala is a really fun way to bridge the gap between the college community and the greater town community,” reflects violinist Danielle Gabriel, ’19.
“The Gala is by far our most popular concert,” says Gabriel. However, reflecting on her time at Davidson, Gabriel notes that “of the three that I’ve done, this has been my favorite, specifically because of the addition of Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.”
Sparky and Rhonda, a pair of Folk Singers, brought something distinct to the tradition of the Davidson Holiday Gala this year. In a program usually comprised of Christmas classics and sing alongs, the couple altered the festivities with “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and “All God’s Children Got Shoes.” Through their performances and the stories that accompanied them, Sparky and Rhonda gave context to familiar Southern tunes. “They bring in narratives we don’t hear often, specifically slave narratives,” continues Gabriel.
In the introductions to their songs, Sparky and Rhonda described the function of music in slave communities as something related to survival and protest in addition to celebration. The subject of slavery and its relationship with music felt tense within a program that heavily emphasized cheer, good will, and unity. In a time of year when celebration is almost forcefully expected, it can be easy to forget the varying and diverse needs that celebration meets and has met.
At a majority-white, southern institution, particularly considering the recent conversations and conflicts regarding diversity and inclusion on campus, this performance and its message felt particularly relevant. Sparky and Rhonda delivered the important reminder that music and the arts have served as more than just a luxury in our collective Southern history.