In August, when the holiday season and even Hesston College were the last things on my mind, I received an email from Russell Adrian, my soon-to-be-choir director, announcing the yearly schedule for Bel Canto. Scrolling through the list, my heart stopped at the sight of two words: Downton Abbey.
This was fate.
After all, I had spent much of the cold winter months watching this British TV show. I had bought DA mugs and DVDs, written two essays about the show for school, and even had tea parties with my friends to watch the season premiers. (No judgement, please.)
And so this Thanksgiving, my day will be filled with a much anticipated food coma, laughter and storytelling with family and friends, and….Downton Abbey?
I think I could handle that.
Despite its nontraditional format, the Nov. 24 event continues a 35-year-old Masterworks concert tradition with “A Downton Abbey Christmas.” However, the theme takes a much different spin than last year’s oratorio composed by Handel. Not only will there be a choral and orchestra component, but students from the drama department will also perform skits inspired by Downton Abbey.
Russell Adrian, music instructor at Hesston and conductor for the Masterworks performance, coordinated the event.
“The concert idea came from the fact that several of the [Downton Abbey] seasons end with Christmas episodes and there is a lot of great Edwardian era Christmas music,” he said. “I think it is a fun idea and hope the concert will kick off the holiday spirit on campus.”
With the semester ending soon, Thanksgiving Break is the perfect time for the music department to look ahead to the holiday season with some Christmas music. So, Thanksmas it is! A Downton Abbey Thanksmas to be more exact.
Downton Abbey, a series that spans the historical timeline of Europe in the 1900s, premiered on the Public Broadcasting Station five years ago and instantly captured the hearts of over 24 million Americans, including my own. The show became the most popular Masterpiece classic to ever air on PBS.
But how did it become so popular? Rob James-Collier, who plays Downton Abbey butler Thomas Barrow, claims the success of the show is thanks to Downton chauffeur, Allen Leech, and his pecs. Though a die-hard fan, I would argue there are more layers to the mystery of the Downton Abbey phenomenon than that. Sorry, Mr. Leech.
In a society where the list of reality TV shows is endless, the high-class and traditional aspect of Downton Abbey stands out. Even beyond that, Downton Abbey speaks a quite different message than American shows such as The Kardashians or The Walking Dead.
There never has been and never will be a comparable show. Masterpiece keeps it classy while facing all of life’s problems. Affairs. Inter-racial relationships. Death. Life. Love. DA has it all. But beneath all of those topics, tradition within order is most prevalent. From measuring the distance between the chair and the dining table to ironing the newspapers, Downton Abbey portrays an unusual focus on precision and order. It is something Americans do not encounter on a daily basis. And that is why Downton Abbey is so fascinating.
In Season Four of Downton Abbey, Hugh Bonneville, Earl of Grantham, remarks, “I am not an owner…I am merely a custodian.” In a sense, we are all custodians. Maybe not of famous castles or fancy paintings, but rather of life.
What will life be life if at the core we worry about spray tans and break-ups? Thanks Taylor Swift, but no thanks. Downton Abbey has laid the stepping stones for the path of order and tradition to be upheld. And that’s refreshing.
And that is why Downton Abbey is so appropriate this holiday season. As families, friends, colleagues, and even strangers are invited to gather at Hesston Mennonite Church on Thanksgiving day, the Masterworks concert invites all to reflect on the past year and bask in the beauty of tradition, faith, and order- inspired by Downton Abbey. So, don’t miss out on your chance to pose in front of Downton’s Highclere Castle or try out your best British accent this Thanksgiving Day. I know I’ll be there.
Downton Abbey Masterworks Concert Information:
The concert is free for all Hesston College students
There will be a Downton Abbey photo booth in the Community Center @ HMC
A Christmas episode of Downton Abbey will be shown @ 6:30 p.m. in the chapel