Season’s Beauty: Audience Enjoys Choral World Premiere
“I remember closing my eyes and thinking I was listening to angels sing.”
That’s how Lara Wallace describes her first encounter with the Lessons and Carols concert at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where she moved six years ago.
She said she has been back to the event every December since.
The Benedictine College Music Department presented this year’s Service of Lessons & Carols on Monday, Dec. 5, at St. Benedict’s Abbey Church. Called “Vultum Tuum – Your Face, I Seek,” it featured the Music Department choirs and guest soloists presenting music of the Advent and Christmas seasons.
The readings this year focused on eagerly seeking the face and presence of God’s. The event featured the world premiere of “Vultum Tuum” by Benedictine associate professor Timothy Tharaldson.
“Every year we construct the Service of Lessons and Carols to bring Advent and Christmas to life through a particular focus,” said Tharaldson. “Our focus this year was seeking the face of God. God, who is already here and is to come. The idea was introduced by the singing of the introit, ‘Tibi dixit cor meum (My heart says to you) for the second Sunday of Lent as sung by the Schola from St. Benedict’s Monastery. This transitioned into a new composition, ‘Vultum Tuum’ (Your Face) I composed, based on the same text, as sung by the over 200 students in the combined choirs of Benedictine College.”
The moving selection of readings, hymns and songs featured Benedictine College Chamber Singers, the Liturgical Choir, the St. Benedict Singers, the St. Scholastica Singers, and the Schola Corvorum. A recording of the video livestream is available here. The Benedictine College Brass Band, Schola Corvorum and faculty member Dr. Lara West also performed.
Readers included: Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis, Benedictine astronomer Dr. Christopher Shingledecker, Sister Cecilia Olson of Mount St. Scholastica monastery in Atchison, Benedictine Nursing Chair Dr. Jackie Harris and Benedictine moral theologian Mariele Courtois. The Benedictine College Sheridan Center for Classical Studies was well represented. Director Andrew Salzmann read, along with Sheridan Chair of Classics Edward Mulholland, Sheridan Scholar Susan Traffas.
The event is loosely based on the traditional Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which originated in Cambridge, England, in 1918. The location inside St. Benedict’s Abbey Church accents the voices in the choral groups and creates a stunning atmosphere for the event.
Other highlights included Michael Trotta’s arrangement of “Veni, Veni, Emanuel” with a soaring solo by Soprano Dr. Kristin Newbegin and Elaine Hagenberg’s stunning new arrangement of “My Song in the Night.” During “Arrival of the King” by Leah Ivory, singers advanced down the aisles of the church slowly to welcome the coming Christ child. The evening ended with everyone joining to sing “Silent Night.”
“All the music and readings to follow explored the various gifts given to us through Advent and Christmas, as also seen through the lens of seeking the face of God in these gifts,” said Timothy Tharaldson , who organized the event.
“I’m so unbelievably proud of our Brass Band, and the student conductors,” Tom Davoren said. “We’re grateful in the band program to have been able to contribute to such a beautiful evening!”
Originally from the United Kingdom, Tom Davoren has held conducting positions with famous British style brass bands including the Fairey and Desford Colliery bands and his own music has been performed by the “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band, and others.
“Bravo Timothy Tharaldson and Tom Davoren,” said Raven Regiment Marching Band conductor Melissa Sawyer. “All students did a phenomenal job, and it was an absolutely stunning production.”
Tharaldson said the students grow spiritually from the experience each year. “To quote a member of one of the choirs, ‘It allowed my heart to be brought into the longing for Jesus, and that is what the season is about.’”
President Minnis said the event was a highlight of the year for the school. “At Benedictine College we agree with St. John Paul II that beauty will save the world,” he said. “Lessons and Carols really shows what John Paul meant. The beauty is inspiring. I am so proud of our amazing students.”