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Release date: Nov. 15, 2000
Contact: Deb Hammacher, Assistant Director, 404-727-0644, or

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Kicks Off Yuletide Season

WHO: Emory University Chorus, Director Eric Nelson
WHAT: Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

WHEN: 8:15 p.m. Dec. 1, 2000, 5 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Dec. 2, 2000

WHERE: Glenn Memorial Auditorium, 1652 N. Decatur Rd., Emory.
COST: $10 general admission. 404-727-5050 or send e-mail to

For many Atlantans, the start of the Yuletide season begins with Emory University's annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Performed by the Emory University Chorus, the program is based on the traditional Christmas service at King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England. This magical melding of scripture lessons read in conjunction with the performance of international carols has been an Atlanta tradition since 1935.

The local tradition of Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols grew out of Christmas concerts first performed at Atlanta's First Presbyterian Church in 1925. The annual event moved to Glenn Memorial Church upon its completion in 1931, and the current format of Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was adopted in 1935 and has met widespread popular and critical acclaim ever since.

The festival is filled with traditions such as the opening candlelight procession of the choir singing "Once in Royal David's City" and the closing singing of "Silent Night." The service was developed in 1880 by E.W. Benson, bishop of Truro. The local tradition is so strong that several families who moved away from the area reunite at the concert every year in the same spot of the balcony, according to Eric Nelson, director of choral activities at Emory.

This year's festival features probably the largest University Chorus ever at more than 200 singers, and a substantial musical accompaniment. This year's instrumentation includes piano, organ, eight-part brass choir and two percussionists. Emory faculty member Deborah Thoreson is the pianist, and Emory alumnus Brad Hughley is the organist. The Concert Choir is 45 singers strong this year.

"The University Chorus has grown from 108 singers when I arrived at Emory four years ago, so finding enough robes is proving to be a challenge this year," laughs Nelson. The featured choral work this year is the Rutter "Gloria," sung by the University Chorus. "Two movements were done last year and were so well-received that I decided to do the whole thing this year," says Nelson.

Another crowd-pleaser this year is Biebl's "Ave Maria" to be sung by the men of the Concert Choir. "We're doing the Biebl piece in homage to the Emory Glee Club of years past," says Nelson. The former men's chorus was merged into the University Chorus along with the Emory Chorale approximately 10 years ago, according to Nelson. Another new selection in the chorus' repertoire for the festival is Nelson's own arrangement of the French traditional carol "Shepherds, What is This Lovely Fragrance."

The complete program is as follows:

The Prelude

The Processional Carol

Irby:, "Once in Royal David's City"

The Bidding Prayer

The Invitatory

J. S. Bach, "Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light" from Christmas Oratorio: University Chorus

The First Lesson

Ord, "Adam lay ybounden": Concert Choir

Rutter, "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (from "Gloria," 1974): University Chorus

The Second Lesson

da Palestrina, "Rorate coeli": Concert Choir

The Third Lesson

Armstrong, "Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus": Concert Choir

Rutter, "Domine Deus," "Rex coelestis" (from "Gloria," 1974): University Chorus

The Fourth Lesson

Congregational Carol

Green, "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

The Fifth Lesson

Biebl, "Ave Maria" (1964): Men of Concert Choir

Mendelssohn, "There shall a Star from Jacob come forth": University Chorus

The Sixth Lesson

Gardner, "Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day": University Chorus

The Seventh Lesson

French trad. carol, arr. Nelson, "Shepherds, What is This Lovely Fragrance": Concert Choir

Thomas, "African Noel": University Chorus

The Eighth Lesson

Rutter, "Quoniam tu solus sanctus" (from "Gloria," 1974): University Chorus

The Ninth Lesson

Congregational Carol

"Adeste Fideles," arr. Willcocks, "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

The Collects for Christmas

The Recessional Carol

Mendelssohn, arr. Willcocks, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing": Congregation and choirs

The Benediction

The Choral Response

German trad. and Gruber, arr. Purifoy and Schram, "Still, Still, Still/Silent Night": University Chorus

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