Festival of Lessons and Carols

Service reflects reason for the season

Nov. 28, 2012

For more than a decade, LaGrange College has welcomed the Christmas season with its annual Festival of Lessons and Carols. This year’s free concert will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2 at Callaway Auditorium.

“It’s our gift to the community,” said the Rev. Dr. Quincy Brown, Vice President for Spiritual Life and Church Relations.

“The service includes sacred readings of scripture given by faculty, guests and friends of the college, as well as choral arrangements accompanied by a chamber orchestra, in addition to a few pieces for orchestra only.”

Brown said he looks at the program as a work of art.

“The frame is always the same – scriptures and music – but the picture inside changes. It helps us turn our faces toward the town of Bethlehem, to relive the story of hope born in the midst of confusion, anxiety, stress and human suffering. It’s the reason for the season.”

Debbie Ogle, Director of Choral Activities, said this year’s music has a gentle tone that has been geared toward the talents of the student singers.

“We have such a talented senior class, and their musicality is just wonderful,” she said. “A stellar group of guys will be performing ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ at the beginning that is just gorgeous.”

One of most stirring pieces of the concert is “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” written by composer Paul Manz and his wife Ruth.

“One of their sons came down with a childhood illness at the age of 3,” Ogle said. “The doctors had given up hope and prepared the parents for the worst. But the couple turned to their faith and composed a hymn.”

“I think we’d reached the point where we felt that time was certainly running out so we committed it to the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus quickly come,’” said Ruth Manz in a 2004 interview with Minnesota Public Radio.

After the couple completed the hymn, their son began to recover. He survived and now has the original score of the hymn written by his parents while he was so ill.

“That story is why this is such a beloved song,” Ogle said.

President Dan McAlexander traditionally does the last lesson of the program, but this year, Ogle said she is changing the song that follows his reading.

“Typically we end with the song ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful,’ but this year I’m changing the music to accompany the wonderful scripture that talks about Jesus being the light of the world,” she said. “We’re adding a very gentle, sweet and beautiful song called ‘O Light of Life,’ featuring the strings and singers. I think that piece will bring even more relevance to the familiar scripture.”

Brown said the service is one of his favorite events of the year.

“Through this work we remember who we are,” he said, “recipients of the gift of love, hope, peace and joy.”

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