The holiday season brings with it carol singing, baking cookies, decorating the tree and curling up next to the fire in a blanket with loved ones, sipping hot chocolate and watching the delicate snowflakes graze the window as they flutter down from the heavens.

This perspective may be common for the majority of us, but life on the other side of the wall of that adorned house—one of a person suffering out in the cold, who cringes upon the sight of the frigid snowflakes, whose only source of heat is a box of matches, who would ask for nothing more for Christmas than love and compassion—is the side that is often overlooked and ignored.

This is the imagery illustrated by the magnificent stylings of this university’s Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Singers in their rendition of the little match girl passion and The Nutcracker.

The performance, presented by this university’s School of Music, exemplified the definitive contrast between rich and poor, joy and sorrow and luxury and squalor with both the whimsical, billowing sounds of the orchestra and the delicate, chilling vocals of the choir.

Complementing the talents of the musicians and vocalists were moving projections depicting different wintery scenes,  entrancing the audience.

Scenes of young Clara slowly spinning and dancing, glittering festive ornaments and sparkling, intricate snowflakes displayed during the energetic songs of The Nutcracker expressed the elegance of Clara’s family’s holiday celebrations, whereas the dark imagery of burning candles and frigid snowfall on a city street illustrated the tones of desperate hopelessness of the little match girl passion.

When listening to the little match girl’s grim mourning of her beloved grandmother, her desperate calls for help and her begging for God’s mercy, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in her situation: cold, hopeless and anxious about imminent death.

The vocalists’ beautiful rendition of the songs made me imagine what it would be like to know that my days were numbered. I reflected on the feeling of awaiting death, when during the holiday season, we are expected to celebrate life.

And then I realized that indeed all I could do was imagine. As much as I had developed sympathy for the little match girl, I could not begin to relate to her struggle.

I realized in a relative sense that I was Clara. I, like most of you, have the superficial adornments for Christmas—the wreaths, garland, gum drops and ornaments—in addition to the more important values—compassion, warmth and contentment.

It was these things the little match girl longed for, which poses the question of what would have happened if Clara and her family were the inhabitants on the other side of the little match girl’s wall. Would they have welcomed her with open arms? Replaced her slippers with warm socks and shoes? Saved her life? Or if nothing else, showered her with warmth and love before her passing?

These are the questions this university’s symphony orchestra and chamber singers had intended to evoke from their entranced audience.

The musicians’ exceptional performance brought to the surface the core values of this holiday season—gratitude, compassion and selflessness—in such a way that not only pulled at heartstrings, but inspired listeners long after the thundering applause and standing ovation at the conclusion of the phenomenal show.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Geoff Sheil.

Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at

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