The popular Catawba College Service of Lessons and Carols that is referred to as the College’s “gift to the community” will be held in the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel on Monday, Dec. 2, and Thursday, Dec 5. The Prelude will begin at 6:30 p.m., with the service beginning at 7 p.m.
Tickets are not required; however, seating is limited to 700 individuals and is available on a first come, first served basis. A shuttle service will operate from various campus parking lots, beginning at 6:30.
This will be the 32nd year that the service has been held at Catawba. It is patterned after the “Nine Lessons and Carols” service associated with King’s College in Cambridge, England, that started in 1918. That service is broadcast worldwide by the BBC.
Origins of the service are attributed to Truro Cathedral in Cornwell, England, dating to 1880. The bishop, the Rev. Edward White Benson, was concerned at the excessive consumption of alcohol in Cornish pubs during the festive season. He sought a means of attracting revelers out of the pubs and into church by offering a religious celebration of Christmas with Christmas music interspersed with Bible readings. The first service was held on Christmas Eve at Truro Cathedral with 400 people attending.
At Catawba, the Rev. Dr. Ken Clapp, Senior Vice President and Director of the Lilly Center, and Dr. Phillip E. Burgess, Associate Chair of the Music Department, prepare the service. This year, it features 75 students from the Catawba Singers, the Chamber Choir and PopAcapella. A brass ensemble of eight students, directed by Dr. Steve Etters, Chair of the Department of Music, will provide music during the prelude at 6:30 p.m., along with a small ensemble from the Gospel-Roots team.
At Catawba, the service is held early in the Christmas season. “I often times say to worshippers that this really sets the tone for Advent and the Christmas season,” Clapp says. “Music is so integral to the worship experience, when we are being called to be in that spirit of preparation.”
The Chapel itself, decorated for the season and resounding with the sound of the choirs, helps worshippers “to step back from the busyness that surrounds the season and get in touch with what the season is all about,” he says.
The choirs’ candlelight processional from the aisles and the balcony creates a surround sound. This year, worshippers will have the opportunity to experience the sound of the renovated Casavant Organ. Last year, Catawba began a project to enhance the 50-year old organ. A concert was held in September to dedicate the enhanced instrument, a hybrid product combining a new Rodgers digital electronic instrument with the pipes form the original organ. The organ will be featured on the traditional carols, as well as in the prelude music.
This year’s service will begin with David Rasbach’s hymn, “We Shall Light a Thousand Candles.” The introit for the service will be Craig Courtney’s setting of “Ancient Words.” The Pentatonix arrangement of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” will feature a soloist and choir.
New music this year includes a setting of “We Three Kings,” written in the style of Dave Brubeck. Patti Drennen’s “Gospel Magnificat” will feature soloists and PopAcapella.
Catawba’s tradition is seven lessons with scripture readings by the President of the Student Body, a member of the Salisbury-Rowan community, a member of the college administration staff, two faculty members, the Provost, and the President.
The Catawba service is made possible through the generosity of the Salisbury-Rowan community who provide funding for the music and decorations.
Livestream on Dec. 5
Tune into the 2019 Lesson & Carols service on Thursday, December 5 at 6:30pm (prelude) and 7pm (service) on Catawba's YouTube channel. The recording will remain available on our channel for future viewing.