Christmas on Fifth to host foreign language students

Alexandre Thiltges
Alexandre Thiltges

By Caroline Brewton

City Editor

This year marks the third year modern foreign language students at Baylor will practice for and perform in a concert during Baylor’s annual Christmas on Fifth Street event.

Students studying various foreign languages, including Italian, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, German, Japanese, French, Arabic and Chinese, will sing carols in their language of study from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Bill Daniel Student Center Bowl.

Rosalie Barrera, a senior lecturer in the Spanish department, has been participating in the concert since it began in 2010.

Barrera wrote in an email to the Lariat that if this year is anything like the last two years, she predicts about 500 student singers, 15 Global Community volunteers and more than 20 modern foreign language professors will participate.

Barrera is also the faculty director of the Global Community Living-Learning Center, an organization that provides housing and global-oriented events for students.

Barrera will serve as a coach to the Spanish students for their performance and will organize the Global Community volunteers.

Students from the Global Community group will organize the singing groups.

Yoshiko Gaines, a lecturer in the Japanese department and a member of the committee who organized the event says, due to the size and number of participants, each language group must organize itself.

“Professors who are willing to participate will coordinate with their fellow professors regarding the song choice and the practice. Everything is left to the individual professor or each language group. It is up to the professors if they want to incorporate this singing into their class,” Gaines wrote in an email.

Some have.

Barrera said the Spanish students have been practicing in class and will be offered the chance to practice more outside of class for one hour each day this week — even though finals and term projects are looming ahead.

“It has been heartwarming to see more and more people see the great value of this event, especially since it occurs during an extremely busy time of the semester,” she wrote.

Others chose to hold practices outside of class time.

Alexandre Thiltges, a lecturer in the French department said on average, about 50 French students from all levels, from beginner students to French majors, showed up for practices even though they were held outside of class.

Thiltges is also co-coordinator of the French performance along with Marie Level.

Thiltges said he wants to thank his students for spending their time contributing to the event.

Several practice sessions were held for the French student singers to learn the song “Il est né, le divin enfant.” In English, this translate as, “He is born, the Holy child.”

The students will sing a capella, without music or instrument to accompany them.

Thiltges, who chose and arranged the song with Level, said contrary to other years, they didn’t choose a song that everyone will know, like a translation of Silent Night.

However, he said, it is “a song every French person will know” because it is traditional.

Thiltges said the event is important to him and he wanted his students to participate — even without the possibility of extra credit to motivate them.

“We can all do something together for this beautiful event, and I hope they don’t need to think about extra credit,” he said.

Thiltges said he has received positive feedback from students this year and in the past.

Westlake Village, Calif., freshman Hayley Nelson, who will sing with the French group, said she is not nervous and wanted to participate because she enjoys singing.

Nelson said she is currently planning to switch her major to vocal performance.

“I think it’s fun. It’s just kind of a nice experience, having Christmas in a French way,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who attended two practices, said she wasn’t inconvenienced by the out-of-class practice times.

“They were before finals and I didn’t have class at the time,” she said.

Thiltges said he believes spectators will be stunned by the beauty of the songs in languages they may not hear often.

“I think it’s incredible that singing songs in all these different languages, we all understand each other” because of the Christmas spirit, he said.

Gaines echoed his sentiment.

“We would like the audience to join us in celebrating Christ’s birth in a universal way that is singing, good or not so good,” she wrote.

Gaines added that she hoped the audience would sing along if they knew the words.