Arts & Culture

Advent Vespers, a generational bridge

Kristian Evans, Senior News Editor

have to admit there is an area of Augsburg lore in which I have failed to experience. I, a student in his final year of undergrad, from a family who has spent three generations spread over six different family members at Augsburg, have never attended Advent Vespers. I fully acknowledge my hypocrisy as someone who will make a point of criticizing Augsburg students who choose not to live in Urness Hall their freshman year, proclaiming them as “not real Auggies.”

  I am happy to say that I have corrected my mistake by attending the Saturday afternoon Vespers service with my Grandmother (an Augsburg student in the 60s) and my (hopefully future Auggie) younger brother.

As someone with a grandfather for a pastor and a Scandinavian name that I phonetically share with a religion, it should come as no surprise that I have seen my fair share of Lutheran Christmas services.

  Like many of Augsburg’s traditions, Vespers reflects the changing culture of the school. Along with the expected German, Norwegian and Swedish songs, scores from Babatunde Olatunji, a Nigerian composer, and a song from Samegrelo, Georgia, are contemporary twists to the tradition.

  The magnificent space that is Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis gives every song, reading and performance the proper majestic weight that it deserves. Perched in the upper balcony, I was able to hear every note clearly while observing a sea of colorful Norwegian sweaters.

  My brother was particularly enthralled with the Vespers harpist, who brought a soothing tone as the lights dimmed for the performance of “Silent Night.” Surrounded by candle-carrying members of the various choirs, the soothing song was the highlight of an expectational display of vocal talents of the Augsburg Choir, Cedar Singers, Riverside Singers and Masterworks Chorale Liturgical, as well as the musical ability of the Vespers Orchestra team.

  The story of Augsburg cannot be told without the Lutheran faith, something my grandmother reminded me of as we exited the church. But as Augsburg and the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood change, it was wonderful to see that change reflected in both big and small ways at Advent Vespers.

  With fewer friends that identify with an organized religion, the event is a reminder of where we came from and where we are going, a reminder of the immense tradition Augsburg students join when they attend the school and a chance to reflect on whatever point you may be on in your faith journey.

  I may have put off my Advent Vespers experience until the last minute, but it is never too late to take in the beautiful music.

This article was originally published in the Dec. 07, 2018 issue.