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Preview: Purdue Musical Organizations' Annual Christmas Show

Carly Rosenberger

As Purdue University celebrates its 150th anniversary, Purdue Musical Organizations’ annual Christmas Show celebrates its 85th year this weekend. This year, the popular holiday event will be straying from a traditional Christmas theme, and will instead focus on paying homage to a few notable Purdue alumni.

Dozens of verdant holiday wreaths neatly adorn the walls inside Purdue University’s Elliott Hall of Music—only one of numerous preparations that have been made for Purdue Musical Organizations’ 85th Annual Christmas Show.

Each holiday season, the PMO Christmas Show has a theme. This year, like many activities at the school, it’s being aligned with Purdue University’s 150th anniversary.

A member of PMO’s Varsity Glee Club, Cameron Kieper, says that includes a celebratory spotlight on Purdue alumni.

“So basically it means, after 85 years, and especially with the 150th anniversary of Purdue, that we’re kind of trying to call everyone home—both alumni, current students, and our historical figures,” Kieper says.

John Purdue, Neil Armstrong, Amelia Earhart, and PMO founder Al Stewart are the four historical characters that will be portrayed by students in the show. Kieper, who will be acting the part of Stewart, says he feels prepared, but he’s beginning to feel some pressure.

“Being someone who’s so integral to PMO history, I’ve kind of felt a little pressure because, you know, this is the one thing that he is part of our organization. He is the founder of our organization, so it’s really important that, you know, I nail it,” Kieper says.

18,000 patrons are expected to flock to Elliott Hall this Saturday and Sunday for the four performances of the annual holiday event, which PBS will broadcast nationally on Christmas Day.

It’s a big stage for the performers, who include much more than orchestra members. Caroline Shanley, a member of the Purduettes choral ensemble and Purdue Bells, says though the Christmas Show is a large time commitment, it’s a big opportunity for those who attend a University that doesn’t have a music school.

“For many of us, since once again we’re not music majors, this is our opportunity to perform at pretty much a Broadway-level capacity in front of thousands—like that sounds crazy to say—thousands of people,” Shanley says.

The Christmas Show maintains a loyal audience, and PMO Marketing and Communications Coordinator Chrissy Crawley says many alumni come back to see it yearly – some from well outside Greater Lafayette.

“There are people who come all the way from Australia, and it’s an annual event that a lot of people don’t want to miss. A lot of people say it kickstarts their holiday season,” Crawley says.

Rehearsals for the program began in early September, and Crawley says they all lead up to this year's appearance by Santa Claus.

"It's not the same every year--it's always something different. And definitely this year will be a Santa reveal that people will never forget," Crawley says.

PMO's 85th Annual Christmas Show will be performed in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music on Saturday at noon, 4 p.m., and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

In January, after a short break, PMO staff members will begin forming plans for the 86th annual Christmas Show.