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Christmas Concert’s No. 1 fans

In metal folding chairs just outside the Memorial Auditorium box office, the early birds were sure to get the worms they wanted. The 2010 Christmas Concert tickets went on sale Nov. 2 just before 9 a.m. As the box office windows rolled open, patient concertgoers – some who had arrived three hours before – requested their seats.

“There is something way deep down that’s really like a family,” said Marlys Herring, the person in charge of the Christmas Concert box office. “It’s all about the ticket. Wanting that specific spot.”

The general trend is to see less people the morning tickets go on sale, but there are still the regulars, Herring said.

Herring has held her box office position for 18 years. She hears people arrive while she is doing her last-minute preparations behind the closed box office windows the morning tickets go on sale. It sounds like a reunion, she said.

“It’s very rewarding to serve the people who get excited about this and come and come and come,” she said. “I almost get teary-eyed watching it.”

At the front of the line were Anita Lindberg, Pat Frazee, and Marjo Lysne. Frazee is a former faculty member of the education department, and has waited in line for concert tickets many times, she said. They wait in line for tickets, Frazee said, so they get the ones they want.

The three argued over their exact time of arrival, agreeing that Frazee arrived at 6 a.m., Lysne at 6:05 a.m., and Lindberg sometime in between. Everyone wants the perfect seats, Lysne said.

“It’s our annual meeting,” Lysne said.

As they waited, they reminisced. They talked about when the Offutt Concourse was built in the ‘50s, and when it collapsed due to high winds. They talked about the barracks that once housed their science classes on campus. They tried to recall where exactly the barracks would have been on today’s campus. They remembered.

“We had good days here,” Lindberg said.

The ladies, said Lindberg, ’51, have seniority in their group. She is the mother of five Cobbers who sang in the choirs, and the grandmother of three current students. She prefers to sit in row four for the Saturday evening performance.

Lysne, a’67 graduate, had her coffee container sitting next to the leg of her folding chair. Reminiscing with old friends is what makes the hours of waiting for tickets worth it, Lysne said. Lysne prefers the permanent seating, she said, by the stairwell, up a few stairs.

“[The Christmas concert] just starts the Christmas season for me,” she said.

Lysne said she has not missed the concert since 1963 when she was a freshman at Concordia.

“That’s not a rare story,” Herring said. “There is a lot of that.”

This year there are 2,921 seats at each of the four concerts, Herring said. When a person comes to her box office window to purchase a ticket, Herring leans over the four black-and-white paper charts to decide where the best available seats are. A person fills every order, Herring said, by looking over the available seats on the chart.

With an in-person order, Herring describes the concert to a customer deciding where they would like to sit. She helps them make decisions for their experience, she said.

When a man in a pea coat and a gray scarf approached Herring’s ticket window, he was unsure of where he wanted his seats.

“If you want to see partial faces, you want to sit here,” she said to him, “although everyone is at one level.”

Herring went on to tell him in what ways he will see the orchestra and the various choirs, as well as where the moveable chairs and permanent seating are. Herring said she always wants to get her customers the best seat possible.

It used to be that people could only buy tickets in person or through the post office, only with cash or check. No phone, no online, nothing, Herring said.  That has changed. The general trend, Herring said, is to see less people on the morning tickets go on sale.

“I see fewer people face-to-face,” Herring said, “but I never, never forget I’m dealing with some person. I try so hard to get them the right seat.”

There are fewer people buying tickets in person because so many are buying online, Herring said. When an online purchase is made, people can chose between floor and permanent seating, but cannot decide the exact location of their seats while Herring consults the charts.

“We do the best we can,” Herring said, “but of course they have no idea when they are making that request if it’s available.”

Carol Girinaker is the hostess each year on the morning Christmas concert tickets go on sale. She informs people of the shortest line to wait in, makes sure they fill out an order form and suggests they have their checks made out in advance.
“It’s kind of a tradition,” Girinaker said. “The same people every year.”

People come the morning the tickets go on sale to get their first choice of seats, Girinaker said.

“These people want to see where they would like to sit,” Girinaker said.
People brought newspapers and magazines to read while they waited in line Tuesday morning. Only those who had arrived the earliest were in folding chairs, the others stood, waiting and chatting.

Alice Benedett, ’84, worked in the Registrar’s office while she attended Concordia. She arrived at 8:15 a.m. for her tickets. She comes the morning tickets go on sale because she attends the concert with a disabled friend who needs a seat near a handrail, she said.

Around 8:25 a.m., Laura Borchert, ’05, joined the line with her venti caramel latte in a seasonal red cup from Starbucks. Her parents are alumni and she has been coming since she was little; it is the memories that keep her coming back, she said. Borchert prefers seats in section C, row 4 for the Saturday evening performance.

“If I stand in line every year, I can pretty much request that and get it,” she said.

The excitement on the morning tickets go on sale returns the Friday of the first concert when the box office gets busy again, Herring said.

“There’s a real buzz because there is a scramble,” she said.

On the night of the first concert, Herring said, she can hear it is almost time for the concert to begin.

“Because it’s noisy and people are coming and it’s noisy,” she said. “In almost an instant, the doors are closing, the lights are down, the concert is beginning.”


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