By: Emily Felty, Staff writer
Ever since it began in 1954, Christmas at the Valley has been one of the biggest holiday celebrations at Lebanon Valley College.
This worship service of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols recently took place in the newly renovated Miller Chapel on Sunday, Dec. 4, with a service held at both 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Rev. Dr. Paul Fullmer, College Chaplain, was the primary coordinator of this service, organizing the nine lessons, recruiting readers and working out the logistics for the event.
“Christmas at the Valley is our Christmas celebration in line with the main heritage of the college and our Christian traditions,” Chaplain Fullmer said. “It’s also our choir concert which is so nice since there are so many wonderful traditional songs and choral music composed around the Christmas holiday.”
While Christmas at the Valley is the biggest of the holiday celebrations, the college also holds other religious events during the season including Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights; the lighting of the shamash, which is part of Hanukkah; and Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.
The Christmas at the Valley services featured organ and handbell preludes followed by selections from the three LVC choirs: Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and College Choir. Dr. Matthew Erpelding, the Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Music, organized the vocal music.
“This event is one of the most well attended by a huge community of alumni and students,” Erpelding said. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate the holidays, to celebrate the true meaning of the season, of giving, sharing and being with family and friends, all through song.”
Each of the choirs, the handbells and the organ presented a wide variety of musical offerings from around the world including different styles and time periods. The College Choir presented two motets by contemporary American composers, while the Chamber Choir did an angelic piece by a contemporary Polish composer in addition to a Renaissance piece. The Concert Choir performed a Russian anthem and a South American number using congas and movement.
“The choirs will be performing throughout the evening as well as readers from the campus community to present the nine lessons,” Erpelding said prior to the performance. “We intersperse that with audience participation, singing and candle lighting. It’s a beautiful, understated and simple event. It’s very graceful and peaceful and just a wonderful way to bring in the season.”
The highlight of the evening was the candle lighting done to Eric Whitacre’s choral piece Lux Aurumque.
“I always love the candle lighting,” Erpelding said. “I think when you turn off all the lights and you take away the distraction, you can sit there and listen to people make beautiful music with the light of the candles. It’s a really magical, transformative experience, a great opportunity to share our art with the community and bring some beauty into the world.”
According to Chaplain Fullmer, half of the offering collected following the service will be donated to Mission Central, an organization based in Central Pennsylvania that provides relief for emergencies in Pennsylvania and beyond. The other half of the offering will be going towards LVC student initiatives related to community service.