W&L Hosts Annual Holiday Candlelight Service The event is free and open to the public.
Washington and Lee University’s annual Christmas Candlelight Service featuring the University Singers will be held Thursday, December 5, at 8 p.m. in Lee Chapel. Seating will begin at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
“Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” which is broadcast each year from King’s College Chapel, University of Cambridge, and widely used in England, the United States and around the world, is an ancient form for corporate worship at the Christmas season. The prayers, lessons and music tell the story of sacred history from the Creation to the Incarnation.
In 1880, Edward White Benson, later the Archbishop of Canterbury, drew up a service of lessons and carols for use on Christmas Eve in the wooden shed which served as his cathedral. In 1918, this service was adapted for use in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. In the early 1930s, the BBC began broadcasting the service on overseas programming, and it is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide.
The service has been held for many years in Lexington and was held at Grace Episcopal Church during the earlier years. The W&L Glee Club participated in the service held at the church, but when the Candlelight Service moved to Lee Chapel in the early 1990s, the newly founded University Chamber Singers became the featured choir.
Music for the traditional service again will be provided by the University Singers, the evolution of the Chamber Singers, and conducted by Shane Lynch, director of choral activities at W&L. The Singers’ anthems will feature a wide variety of music, from classics like Praetorius’ “Lo, How a Rose” and Holst’s “Nunc Dimittis” to modern masterpieces such as Stanford Scriven’s “Christ the Appletree” and Lynch’s recent composition, “Mother and Child.”
Timothy Gaylard, professor of music, will be the organist for the service, leading the familiar hymns and carols and rounding out the evening’s experience with a festive organ prelude and postlude. This year’s prelude will be a special arrangement by Gaylard of the Dutch carol “Nu zijt wellekome,” which he will present in memory of Dymph Alexander, administrative assistant in the Music Department from 1988 to 2013. Alexander died on October 2.
Nine members of the Washington and Lee University community will read the lessons. The Revered David Cox will preside over the service.
The event will be streamed live online here.