Westminster to celebrate the 38th annual lessons and songs festival
Westminster College will celebrate the 38th annual Festival of Lectures and Songs at 5 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary the Virgin Church, Aldermanbury.
The live broadcast will be available on the Westminster Facebook and YouTube pages, the Westminster Live Stream page and the National Churchill Museum Facebook and YouTube pages.
Westminster’s beloved and centuries-old Lessons and Carols event is inspired by the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, University of Cambridge, England.
The service includes the reading of nine scriptures from the Bible that relate to the Christmas story. Each reading is followed by a reflective song.
Like the annual service in Cambridge, the Westminster service begins with the “Once in Royal David’s City” procession and features a student singing the first verse of the a cappella song from the church balcony.
“This is both solemn and hopeful, and for many in our community I think it marks the start of Christmas,” said Natasia Sexton, associate professor of music, who conducts the Churchill Singers.
A ten-year tradition in Westminster is the singing of “Joy to the World” after the ninth reading.
“This particular arrangement is marked by magnificent organ accompaniment, and hearing it in this space on our Mander organ played by Gretchen is unprecedented,” Sexton said of Gretchen Huedepohl, a Jefferson City organist and musician of church, which has accompanied the Churchill Singers since 2009.
In addition to the Churchill Singers, the service will also include Christmas carols performed by Caleb Alexander, guitarist and visiting professor of fine arts; Ken Kehner, jazz pianist and piano teacher; as well as alumni Audrey Sharp, ’13; Kelsie Slaughter, ’20 and Jack DeArmey, ’20.
The annual event traditionally takes place in Westminster on the Second Sunday of Advent.
Reverend Kiva Nice-Webb, chaplain and director of the Center for Faith and Service in Westminster, explains that Advent is a season of waiting and many people at the college expect this particular performance each year. Last year, event sponsors were forced to pre-register and share the concert online after the holidays due to COVID-19 issues.
“This year we will be kicking off the Advent season with a mix of live and pre-recorded selections,” said Nice-Webb.
She said the live broadcast allows a wider audience to enjoy the event, balancing safety and festivity.
“The loss of time to mark time in the traditional way has been difficult for many people during the pandemic, and we are delighted to once again offer lessons and songs with the Churchill Singers in St. Mary’s,” said Nice- Webb.
The Festival of Lessons and Carols is co-sponsored by the Westminster Center for Faith and Service, the College’s Department of Fine Arts, and the National Churchill Museum of America.