‘Christmas Unplugged’ makes final appearance at Willamette

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Associate Professor of Music John Doan performs at Hudson Hall
    Associate Professor of Music John Doan performs at Hudson Hall.

Hundreds show up for the old-fashioned holiday program to support departing professor.

A Willamette holiday tradition filled the seats of Hudson Hall one last time.

Hundreds of people packed the auditorium to hear John Doan, an Emmy-nominated musician and popular associate professor of music, perform “Christmas Unplugged: Reclaiming the Holiday Spirit” before he leaves the university at the end of May. Doan is moving to California to be closer to family.

Audiences have flocked to his program for 32 years. Originally titled, “What We Did Before Radio and TV,” it aims to transport people back to a time untouched by technology. Doan incorporates singalongs, archival photographs and century-old instruments like harp guitar and zithers to represent his interest in a “time when people entertained themselves and each other.”

The program took an ironic turn before Sunday’s performance — Doan’s computer, used to project images that accompany the concert on a screen behind him, suffered a glitch. As he ran onstage to fix it, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He told them although he’d normally bow in humble response to their welcome, “I actually need to enter my password into my computer so we can start the program!”

The show was a success. Doan received another standing ovation and an encore before students, former students, colleagues, friends and fans lined up to greet him.

“I was particularly moved by seeing former students who were accompanied by their families of grown children,” he says.

Doan, who has taught at Willamette for 41 years, says he’s grateful for the university’s support and a final chance to perform there.

He says, “It was truly a delight visiting with so many who have turned out to see the show over the past 32 years.”

In addition to his popularity as a Willamette instructor, Doan is an accomplished musician who has performed alongside Burl Ives and Donovan. He recently returned from a 14-concert tour in Europe and plans to continue booking shows in California.

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