General Conference

La Sierra University premieres “Christmas Gift” music video during 70th Annual Concert

The song was arranged for the project by Emmy Award-winning composer, who also serves as an adjunct professor.

La Sierra, California, United States | Darla Martin Tucker

a Sierra University’s music department, during its 70th Annual Candlelight Concert on Dec. 1, debuted a Christmas music video arranged by an Emmy-winning composer and showcasing the talents of several of the university’s students. The concert was held at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California. A second performance was given the following day.
The video, produced in conjunction with the Office of University Advancement, features eight La Sierra University student musicians performing the carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The tune was arranged specifically for the project by six-time Emmy Award-winning composer Gary Kuo, an adjunct professor at La Sierra.
“It’s a Christmas gift to the church, the global community, and anyone who loves great music,” said Jonathan Davidson, a Development officer and university alum, and one of the video production crew leaders. “We believe that the combination of music and film is a powerful way to share God’s love. The La Sierra University music students are extremely talented and we wanted to give them an opportunity to share those talents in a unique way.”
The students and production crew, with a small, white grand piano in tow, traveled to Mammoth Lakes, California, to film their performance of the song amid the scenery of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The video portrays the nativity story of Mary and Joseph, roles acted by La Sierra alums Marian and Joseph Helmy, who arrived from their native Egypt to study accounting at the university. The role of baby Jesus is played by Kenzo Grant. Shooting for the nativity scenes took place on La Sierra’s campus and in the Painted Canyon area near the Southern California desert city of Mecca.
The musical ensemble in the video consists of soprano Daphne Leon, alto Kayla Canteras, tenor L. Anthony Leon, baritone Sam Bolivar, pianist Julian Jenson, violinist Elena Kim, violinist Pablo Sanchez, and cellist John Wang.
Fundraising for the video production began last summer with the music track recorded in August in Hole Memorial Auditorium. Joel Mendoza, a student at La Sierra, served as the project’s audio engineer under Kuo’s supervision. A cinematographer in Tennessee provided video color correction services.
The music recording and editing process took more than 100 hours with filming in the various locales occurring on four days between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6. Numerous other details included acquiring filming permits from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, buying food for students and crew, and renovating an older, white piano borrowed from a La Sierra alum for use in the musical performance scenes in the Sierras. The piano was taken apart and transported into the mountains with a U-Haul truck where it was carried by seven crew members to the filming site on Minaret Vista.
The Department of Music and the Office of University Advancement served as executive producers for the project. The eight-member video production crew were led by Davidson and Development officer Kristine Barker, a student in La Sierra’s MBA program. The duo functioned as producers, directors, and editors. Crew member Jonathan Hwang is also an alum of the university.
Additional music video credits are as follows: Assistant Producer: Lovelyn Razzouk; music arrangement: Gary Kuo; Audio Engineer: Joel Noe Mendoza; Cinematographer: Bryan Fowler; 1st Assistant Camera: Mark Soderblom; 2nd Assistant Camera/Gaffer: Jon Hwang; Wardrobe and Make-up: Klarissa Bietz; Leave No Trace Consultant: W. S. Adams.
Davidson said that La Sierra is willing to send a high-quality version to “anyone who wants to broadcast the video.”

Click here to watch the music video on Facebook; the music video is available for viewing on YouTube: The music may also be downloaded from iTunes: