In the face of the ongoing global pandemic, Wittenberg University continues to present traditional events using remote delivery whenever possible. The latest event to be presented virtually is the beloved annual holiday tradition Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas.
A video presentation, compiled and edited by Kayla Spitzmiller ’22 in University Communications, and Mackenzie Moran, graduate assistant for athletics communications, will be unveiled at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21. A link to the video will be distributed via Wittenberg’s social media outlets at that time, and it will remain available from the University’s home page for an extended period of time for on-demand consumption.
In addition to being the first virtual Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas service at Wittenberg, the concert will also be unique in that it will use recordings from past services, including some dating as far back as the late 1960s. Music from old services is woven together with pieces recorded this semester with students wearing masks and singing while socially distanced. Pictures from previous services will accompany the audio recordings. Even the choice of readers, representing many different decades at Wittenberg, is purposeful, highlighting the ability and need to feel connected through common bonds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s theme, “My Song in the Night,” speaks to the fear and anxiety society has felt amid the pandemic. The first song, Only in Sleep, is from the perspective of someone in a dream where, “time is forgotten.” This is followed with the traditional carol, I Wonder as I Wander, played and sung by Shante Leslie ‘22, a choir student studying remotely, which is common in 2020 across the country. These songs filled with uncertainty culminate in the piece, My Song in the Night, in which the author calls out, “Oh Lord, in affliction I call,” finally answered with the affirmation celebrated at Christmas, that the birth of Christ is, “our comfort and joy,” our, “song in the night.”
Choirs led by former Wittenberg conductors L. David Miller, John Williams, and Don Busarow will all be featured in the service. Busarow, the long-time conductor and organist at Wittenberg, will also be heard playing an organ improvisation of the carol Joy to the World. Participants from this year’s groups include the Wittenberg Choir, the Wittenberg Singers, IMANI gospel choir, and a low-brass ensemble. Assistant Professor of Music Erik Zinter is the current director of choirs at Wittenberg, Adjunct Instructor of Music Kent Brooks directs IMANI, and Adjunct Instructor of Music Andrew Jones organized and recorded the brass ensemble.
The virtual service concludes with video footage from last year’s Lessons and Carols. All will join in for the audience carol O Come All Ye Faithful, followed by Night of Silence, in which the choirs sing “Spirit among us shine like the star…rising in the warmth of your Son’s love,” interposed with the congregation’s singing of Silent Night. This audience favorite has concluded the service in each of the last five years.