By Jessica Hergert
Christmas songs fluttered through the air as the R Factor Holiday concert brought a whole lot of spirit in place of competition to the Bart Luedeke Center stage on Dec. 2.
The stage itself looked like a scene from a Christmas movie, decorated with three brightly-lit trees, lampposts and the silhouette of a cozy house.
The concert kicked off with a performance from the Rider Dance Team to the song “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” The dancers crowded the aisles and stage and pumped up the audience.
The host for the evening, senior public relations major Kevin Grunder, called for energy and excitement, saying that the show was “bringing back all the favorites” from past R Factors.
Grunder introduced R Factor veterans Nick Barbati and Trace Kennedey and newcomer “The Voice” contestant Dez Duron as “The Three Wise Men.”
“I love it here; that’s why I keep coming back,” Kennedey said during his introduction.
Freshman behavioral neuroscience major Caleb Holt and sophomore elementary education major Paige Davis kicked off the first act with a fun duet of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” that showed off their skill in both singing and acting.
They were followed by a solo performance of Ariana Grande’s song “Santa Tell Me” by freshman musical theater major Anna Sanzone.
Another solo followed as R Factor Season 4 veteran junior elementary education major Victoria Panagos sang “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” Barbati commented on her performance, saying Panagos’ “growth is immeasurable.”
As Panagos exited, newcomer and mentor Dez Duron took the stage, personalizing his performance of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” explaining he longed for his home in Louisiana during the holiday season while attending school in Connecticut.
A change in style followed when Grunder lit up the stage again, introducing special guest Karen “Miss Cheetah” Torchia, who took her final bow as an R Factor judge four seasons ago.
Torchia expressed her excitement to be back, saying R Factor was “really exciting when [she] was here” because of the “talented, talented students” she worked with.
The performances continued with “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” sung by senior musical theater major Anna Smith. The audience loved her upbeat song and responded with bobbing heads and rhythmic clapping.
The concert slowed down again with a beautiful performance by former R Factor winner senior musical theater major Milika Griffiths singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” The audience seemed entranced by her voice, only making noise after the last note to explode with claps and cheers.
A unique performance followed with the classic Christmas song “Carol of the Bells” by Rider’s a capella group ’Til Further Notes. The group mesmerized the mentors and audience, receiving one of the biggest crowd reactions of the night.
Barbati came onto the stage next, thanking everybody who made the show possible. He said that Rider is “lucky to be a community that has each other,” and that this concert represents what the holidays are: “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Despite the talent that had already graced the stage, the headliners were yet to perform.
First up was sophomore arts administration major Kalif Jones who performed two songs, a mash-up of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bell Rock” followed by a beautiful rendition of “The Christmas Song.”
Following Jones was another special performance by one of the mentors. This time, Kennedey took the stage in a vibrant, all-red outfit with a Santa hat.
Kennedey involved the audience during his performance of “This Christmas” and put his soul into his second song “Mary, Did You Know?” that hit close to his heart and Christian background.
The final performer was sophomore psychology major Gabby Mendoza, who sang a mash-up of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “O, Holy Night,” captivating the audience as she belted out the notes.
The finale commenced with every performer coming on stage, taking turns singing “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
The performance was a way for the Rider community to come together and enjoy the sounds of some of Rider’s best singers before winter break.
Printed in the 12/7/16 edition.