One of my favorite Christmas season events
It takes place yearly in the Catholic cathedral in town...
a place rich in atmosphere and beauty...
a perfect setting for the Advent and Christmas stories
that are told here on this day.
A Festival of Lessons and Carols.
Readings from the New Testament which
illustrate the story of the birth of Christ
from its foretelling to the annunciation
to the child's birth and ending with the adoration by the Wise Men.
Each lesson is alternated with a musical piece,
most of which are choral.
Our Festival is chock full of things that bring me joy.
It is a community undertaking,
the readings are comforting and magical,
and the music is breathtaking.
The spirit of the season kindles for all who attend.
After the program ends, there are smiles
and hugs and gestures of good will
up and down the aisles.
Best, it is a bringing together of many different Christian faiths,
all working together to celebrate one of
their central ecclesiastical themes.
The major churches in the area that have choirs
contribute singers for this choral event.
Baptist, Episcopal, Unitarian,
Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran
The readers are ministers and lay leaders of
each of those churches as well.
All coming together to prepare for the retelling of a miracle.
And creating another miracle by their work together.
Although it begins at 2:45, people start gathering
at a little after 2:00.
First it is a trickle.
Then the pews begin to fill with eager anticipation.
In no time, there is a full house--
In a very large church!
Attending are babies and 90-somethings, and everything in between.
Those who come early get a chance to see a last minute
rehearsal. Think of it--
choir members from many churches who have
each been practicing this music
with their own choir directors for many weeks--
only lately coming together with the Festival's choir director
to make it all 'work'.
And 'work', it does!
The program starts each year with the Bell Choir.
The bell ringers make heavenly music--
each ringer has several bells that she picks up and rings,
puts down, picks up again--
hundreds of times in a piece.
There are several sounds that come out of each bell--
depending on how they are handled and rung.
Hard to explain--but the result is ethereal.
It is very hard to take a photo unobtrusively
in a huge church (with no flash),
moving objects, vastly varied light.
Here's my attempt to show you what it looks like anyway.
The yellow and red streaky things are the bells reflecting light
as they are rung.
The director of the bell and voice choirs comes from the local
church on the hill. He is talented
and spirited and full of grace--both spiritual and physical.
I love to watch him work. It often looks
like he is doing Tai Chi in front of the choir.
Not in a show-off way, just very quietly.
His back faces the assembled, but once in awhile
he turns his head just so, and one can see
his animated face, coaching and inspiring his singers.
And the faces in the choir! And their heavenly voices!
The music soars, fills the rafters, gives me goosebumps, and makes me cry.
I wish you all could have been there.
Each Christmas Eve on NPR, there is a live broadcast
of Lessons and Carols from
King's College in Cambridge, England.
It takes place there in the evening, I believe, which puts it
early to late morning of Christmas Eve in the States and Canada--
just about the time I am baking pies,
...and the sound fills my kitchen.
If you have never heard it, you probably would love it.
Crisp, angelic young voices with British accents.
Echoes and organ reverberations from the huge cathedral.
(If that won't put you in the spirit, nothing will.)
Catch it if you can.