Festival of Lights at MC Aims to Illuminate Christmas Season with Joyful Words and Songs
One of the longest-running traditions of the Christmas season at Mississippi College will return to Provine Chapel with a brand-new leader and exciting additions to the program.
The Festival of Lights, a joyous celebration of the Christmas story in words and songs, is scheduled for three performances, each at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 1-3.
Faculty and students in the Department of Music have filled the candlelit auditorium with Christ-centered a cappella and accompanying music each year since 1986, when Dr. Richard Joiner began the production he directed for many seasons.
Beth Everett, MC’s new director of choral activities, will take the Festival of Lights baton for the first time.
“I had the chance to meet Dr. Joiner in west Tennessee years ago, and he has become a dear friend,” Everett said. “It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of someone like him and to have his support in what we’re doing.”
Ben Williams, chair of the Department of Music at MC, said the performance is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.
“The Festival of Lights is always a big attraction for the department,” Williams said. “We’re excited to see what Dr. Everett will be putting together for this performance.”
Everett said audience members can expect a worshipful experience that will include scripture readings in the tradition of Lessons and Carols.
“I think traditions are such a rich part of any university,” she said. “To have one that is already well established, like the Festival of Lights, is a real gift to someone like me who is new to MC.
“During the holiday season, people look to music for comfort. I have experience with Lessons in Carols services, and I’m glad to bring that with me to this performance.”
During her first teaching assignment, Everett started a Lessons in Carols performance as part of a chapel service at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. At LaGrange College in Georgia, she led annual Lessons in Carols services for the community that included a full orchestra.
Her most recent academic home, Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, hosts an annual candlelight service that has been a tradition for more than 100 years.
“I loved being a part of these services,” Everett said. “They are accessible to everyone, whether they are familiar with liturgical-type services or not. Because it’s constantly moving, it’s wonderful for people of any faith tradition to follow.
“You read a short lesson and sing a song that illustrates a part of that lesson. Because everything is of a shorter length, and you don’t have a long sermon or homily, it’s well received by everyone who attends, regardless of their background.”
The choir enters the chapel holding lit candles and singing “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.” Everett said the flickering illumination in the auditorium is as meaningful as it is breathtaking to see.
“The use of light, the whole idea of light shattering the darkness, is such a beautiful picture,” she said. “Every time I have done this type of service, I always try to emphasize the lesson of Jesus as the light of the world. The choir holding the candles demonstrates that darkness cannot stay where the light is. I think it’s very purposeful, and it’s the final lesson of the service.
“In keeping with our tradition, we will continue using the candles, and we’ll add a few things to the service as well.”
For the first time, the Choctaw Chorus and a few MC faculty and staff will join the MC Singers for three songs, expanding the field of vocalists.
“We hope to grow our participation,” Everett said. “We call ourselves Choral Activities, and we would like to be viewed as one choral family rather than separate choirs. We hope more faculty and staff will join us in the future.”
She said Robert Knupp, professor of music, will also treat attendees to wonderful organ music, and two selections will feature students playing instruments.
“The audience will get a snapshot of the rich talent we have among our instrumentalists in the Music Department as well,” she said.
Everett said the holiday season provides an excellent opportunity to share the good news of Christ through performances like the Festival of Lights.
“This is the time when someone who may be searching for light in their own lives can walk into any church service and know they are going to hear beautiful music and find encouragement,” she said. “They will hear that Jesus is the light of the world and that if they need that light in their own lives, they can find it.
“I often tell the choir, you never know who might be in the audience and how what we do might reach that person. This is not just a performance for us; it is truly a time to worship together.”
General admission tickets for the Festival of Lights cost $15 each for adults, and $5 each for MC faculty and staff or students from any school. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.