Westminster College and America's National Churchill Museum will celebrate the 38th Annual Festival of Lessons and Carols via livestream at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.
The livestream replay is available on the Museum and Westminster College's Facebook and YouTube pages.
This beloved, time-honored Lessons and Carols event is patterned after the original Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, University of Cambridge, England.
The service includes the reading of nine biblical scriptures that pertain to the Christmas story. Each reading is followed by a reflective carol.
Like the yearly service at Cambridge, Westminster's service begins with the processional "Once in Royal David's City" and features a student who sings the first verse of the song a cappella from the church balcony. "It's a moment that is at once solemn and hopeful, and for many in our community I think it marks the beginning of Christmas," says Associate Professor of Music Dr. Natasia Sexton, who conducts the Churchill Singers.
A decade-long tradition at Westminster is the singing of "Joy to the World" after the ninth reading. Sexton explains, "This particular arrangement is marked by a magnificent organ accompaniment, and hearing it in that space on our Mander organ played by Gretchen is unparalleled," Sexton says of Gretchen Huedepohl, a Jefferson City organist and church musician, who has accompanied the Churchill Singers since 2009.
In addition to the Churchill Singers, the service will also feature carols played by Caleb Alexander, guitarist and Visiting Instructor of Fine Arts; Ken Kehner, jazz pianist and Instructor of Piano; as well as alumni Audrey Sharp, '13; Kelsie Slaughter, '20; and Jack DeArmey, '20.
The annual event traditionally takes place in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury on the second Sunday of Advent.
Rev. Kiva Nice-Webb, Chaplain and Director of the Center for Faith & Service at Westminster, explains that Advent is a season of expectant waiting, and many at the College wait excitedly each year for this particular performance. Last year, event sponsors were forced to prerecord and share the concert online after the holidays because of COVID concerns. Nice-Webb explains, "This year we will usher in the Advent season with a mixture of live and pre-recorded selections."
She adds that the livestream allows a wider audience to enjoy the event, balancing safety with festivity. "The loss of marking time in traditional ways has been difficult for many people during the pandemic, and we are so delighted to offer Lessons and Carols with the Churchill Singers in St. Mary’s once again," Nice-Webb says.
The Festival of Lessons and Carols is co-sponsored by Westminster's Center for Faith & Service, the College's Fine Arts department, and America's National Churchill Museum.