An atmospheric sound filled the walls of the Egner Memorial Chapel on Saturday, Dec. 2 and Sunday, Dec. 3 for the annual Advent Candlelight Carols. The Candlelight Carols are performed and adapted from Festival of Lessons and Carols of King’s College, Cambridge University in England. They are performed to celebrate the season of advent, the awaiting of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Reverend Callista Isabelle partnered with the Departments of Theatre and Dance, as well as the Music, to put on the phenomenal and inspirational show.
The process of organizing Candlelight Carols was a collaborative event between Rev. Isabelle, Dr. Chris Jackson in the Music Department, Jeffrey Peterson in the Dance Department, Andrew Long, an organist, and Tanya Schock who is the Assistant to the Chaplain.
Several choirs were featured including the College Choir, the Chamber Singers and the Handbell Choir. A live organist also added to the magic of the show.
“Advent Candlelight Carols is a beautiful service of choir music, dance, scripture readings and candlelight. The service brings together special elements of our community, [Muhlenberg’s] Lutheran roots, students active in the arts, readers who are faculty and staff members, alumni, students and friends of the College,” said Isabelle.
Isabelle has been involved within the Advent Candlelight Carols since the Advent season of 2012. It is a tradition that goes back 60 years, as it was once started by students here at Muhlenberg College.
“Candlelight Carols was started by a student in 1957, and continues because people love the tradition. I think people love it because it is a beautiful service that helps people reflect and prepare for the Christmas season,” said Isabelle.
“This is my first year in Candlelight Carols singing in the choir. It is always nice to sing and create music with a community of people, which has made my experience so positive,” said Miriam Holsbeke ’21.
Holsbeke also noted that because she is Jewish, this is her first time in a Lutheran-service setting, but it nevertheless has been an eye-opening experience.
The song list included “O Nata Lux,” “Oseh Shalom,” “Stars,” and “Silent Night.
“Candlelight Carols almost signifies the beginning of the holiday season and reminds you of what values and traditions the Lutheran religion is all about,” said Anders Getz ’21.
Candlelight Carols are equally about celebrating the holiday season through music and dance and celebrating the holiday season with community members across the Lehigh Valley.
“I hope the community takes away that there is a lot to learn about and remember when it is the holiday season,” said Getz.
Light is a recurring theme in the show with a light being passed from candle to candle, until the whole room is lit up beautifully.
“Spreading light from one small flame out of darkness is a huge theme in candlelight carols. Whenever we light candles, we use our own singular flames to share with our neighbors and in only a short time, we light the entire chapel again. I hope the community will take away this theme of finding light no matter how small and spreading it the best they can,” said Holsbeke. “To me, Candlelight Carols [means] it is the time of year to spread cheer through music.”
This year marks also Isabelle’s last Candlelight Carols as she is leaving her position as Muhlenberg’s reverend in early December.
Candlelight Carols is an event unlike any other and the cheer and joy it spreads to others is bountiful, a sentiment echoed by Isabelle.
“This year’s Candlelight Carols services were truly beautiful, thanks to the hard work of choirs, dancers and our dedicated staff and faculty. I was deeply moved at various points throughout the services,” said Isabelle.