Annual Lessons and Carols Ushers in the Holiday Season

by ALEXA SCHMIDT, Asst. A&E Editor

The annual Lessons and Carols event was held on Sunday, Dec. 2 in the Chapel of De La Salle and His Brothers. It included performances by the Manhattan College Singers, Orchestra, and two acapella groups, the Manhattones and the Performing Hearts.

The lead-up to the event requires practice and preparation. Andy Bauer, the director and coordinator of performing arts, oversees the scheduling and timing.

“We start working on the music right away because the music that we’re doing really would ideally require at least two to three times a week of rehearsal. We have choir once a week for two hours, which is not as productive. So consequently, if we’re trying to do music at a certain level of difficulty, we have to start earlier in the year,” he said.

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Manhattan College Singers and Orchestra team up to perform a collection of songs and medleys for the event. STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY / THE QUADRANGLE

Erin Plitt, the president of Singers added, “Right away we start looking at the music we will do in December for the concert. Usually at first we start just skimming the music, reading it down so that we are familiar with it and then we start really digging in after open house.”

“Rehearsing is an interesting time. It all feels generally very rushed because we’re going from general concert to Lessons and Carols, but I’m honestly really impressed by how fast we can get things together and do things well,” said Naomi Uy, who is in Singers, Orchestra and Performing Hearts.

The prelude to the concert began at 3:30p.m. with Performing Hearts singing their own rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” two arrangements from the Orchestra, and the Manhattones arrangements of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “White Winter Hymnal”.

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Manhattan College’s all-female acapella group, the Performing Hearts, opened the program. ALEXA SCHMIDT / THE QUADRANGLE

At 4:00p.m. the event officially started. The Orchestra and Singers performed a collection of songs and medleys together, including “What Child is This,” “Carol of the Bells,” I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Greensleeves” among various others.

The music choice for Singers stems from Bauer’s own judgement on what he thinks will challenge his ensemble, but he also takes student suggestions into consideration.

“I’ve gotten a handle on the personalities of the groups, and I kind of know what they’re going to like. Even if they don’t necessarily like it in the beginning, because it’s hard and it’s difficult, eventually they will appreciate it. I always try to give them well-composed music. The quality of the music is going to be the best it can be,” Bauer said. 

The “lessons” including readings from Genesis, Isaiah, Luke, Matthew and John, which retold the Christmas story. Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., offered a reflection.

“Silent Night” was at the end, with the lights in the chapel turned off, and members of the audience holding lit candles. The night ended with a closing prayer from Reverend Thomas Franks, and a recessional.

After Lessons and Carols, the audience members were invited for refreshments and further entertainment in Kelly Commons.

“The after-party, which is my favorite part of the whole concert, is when the jazz band plays. Because then I’m done with everything and I can just enjoy just being around people and getting into the Christmas spirit,” Bauer said.

Lessons and Carols is a big event for all performing arts groups, and is a way to start December off on the right foot before the stress of finals, and winter break.

“I like the pageantry of it. I think it’s just a beautiful, well-composed performance piece where the music and the words really become fused and mutually supportive,” Bauer said.

For some, it’s their last time participating in such a special event. Senior Plitt said,

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The candle lighting contributes to the beauty and pageantry of the evening before the reception in Kelly Commons. STEPHEN ZUBRYCKY / THE QUADRANGLE

“It’s definitely bitter-sweet to be singing at my last Lessons and Carols. I remember my freshman year all of the seniors and juniors going on about how much it meant to them and how beautiful the whole program is, especially the candle lighting. Looking back, I had no idea how much it would mean to me.”.

She continued.

“Being Singers president has come to mean preserving what I think is special about the performing arts department and this magical event. I used to think of it as a great leadership position but now I find myself working a little bit everyday to pass on the special traditions that have been passed down to me. I was elected into an amazing community by becoming the president of Singers, working with the board and Andy has been one of the best things about coming to Manhattan for me. I want so badly for others to have the experience I had and I want this community to grow and flourish after I have graduated.”