Release date: Nov. 15, 2000
Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Kicks Off Yuletide Season
WHO: Emory University Chorus, Director Eric Nelson
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.
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 Processional Carol
The Bidding Prayer
The First Lesson
The Second Lesson
The Third Lesson
The Fourth Lesson
The Fifth Lesson
The Sixth Lesson
The Seventh Lesson
The Eighth Lesson
The Ninth Lesson
The Collects for Christmas
The Recessional Carol
The Choral Response
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