Festival of Lessons & Carols

December 17, 2013

In one of the Portsmouth community’s most beautiful and moving holiday musical programs, Second Presbyterian Church, 8th and Waller Streets, will present its annual “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” on Thursday, December 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the church sanctuary.

To celebrate the Christmas season, the traditional service alternates readings from the Holy Scriptures by lay readers from the church congregation with carols and anthems sung by a choir composed of church and community members. The Chancel Choir will be accompanied by a full orchestra of local musicians and others from regional orchestras. Together numbering approximately 75 participants, the choir and orchestra will be under the direction of Stanley Workman, Jr., PhD., Second Presbyterian Church Director of Music.

Everyone is welcome to attend the traditional sacred service. Admission is free; a freewill offering will be taken to help defray the costs of the program.

Music for the program will feature several new carol arrangements this year. Three by Mack Wilberg, director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, include the traditional French carol, “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella,” set to a new poem by David Warner in the style of a grand processional hymn, along with a tender setting of Gustav Holst’s beautiful hymn set to Christina Rosetti’s famous poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” and the Spanish carol, “Fum, Fum, Fum,” in an evocative and playful arrangement, according to Workman.

The program will offer a moving new selection, “The Carol of the Magi,” by John Rutter, as well as arrangements that haven’t been heard for several years, including Stephen Paulus’

“Gabriel’s Message,” Lohman’s “What Child” and Widmar-Schulz’ “Midnight Clear,” Workman said.

Harpist Jane Zopff will provide a meditative prelude for the service and the orchestra will perform the well-known “Fantasia on Greensleeves” for the offertory. Traditional hymns and carols will be sung by the choir and the congregation, accompanied by organ and orchestra.

The “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” is based upon the original yearly presentation from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England, which brings the message of Christmas through scripture illuminated by seasonal music.

The now traditional service was first held on Christmas Eve, 1918, at King’s College Chapel. Almost immediately other churches adapted the service for their own use. A wider audience began to grow when the service was first broadcast in 1928. With the exception of 1930, it has been broadcast annually, even during World War II. It is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide.

Further information about “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” may be obtained by contacting the Second Presbyterian Church office at 353-4159.