Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Vespers tradition continues

Students will continue a Christmas-season tradition this Sunday with the performance of Christmas Vespers.

This annual service at the College includes scripture readings and songs by a choir, with some singing by the congregation. The music and words progress through the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus.

There is something special about that experience every year, said Randall Speer, music professor and director of the Randolph College Chorale.

"I don't feel ready for Christmas until I do that," he said. Alumnae of the College have expressed the same sentiment when they have returned for the service, he said.

This year's performance centers around O Magnum Mysterium by the Spanish composer Tomas Luis da Victoria. The text of this song speaks about the "great mystery" that Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger as animals watched, Speer explained. The music is exciting, with several different melodies carrying listeners through the text, Speer said. Three students are providing cello, violin, and flute accompaniment for this piece.

The program also includes two Christmas-themed segments from Randall Thompson's Place of the Blest, serving as a preview of an April concert when Chorale will perform Thompson's entire work with Lynchburg Symphony Orchestra.

Speer recently looked through a collection of printed musical programs and found that the College has held Christmas Vespers regularly for at least 30 years.

This tradition is just one way the College is ringing in the holiday season. Tonight, students have the opportunity to decorate a tree in the Main Hall lobby, followed by a tree lighting service at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8.